Weather Fiji, Suva   Max 30°C, Min 23°C

Fiji Sun



December 31
12:00 2009


The MV Lau Trader becomes a delightful speck on the horizon for thousands of Lauans when it sails into Wainiyabia today, with nearly 100 passengers and loads of much-awaited supplies on board.
The new million-dollar vessel is making its trial voyage to Lakeba, Nayau, Cicia, Tuvuca, Kabara, Yacata and Vanua Balavu. Together with the load go the hopes and aspirations of Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba (Roko Ului) Mara, chairman of Lau Provincial Council that the ship will encourage inter-island trade and stimulate economic growth for this group of islands in the East.
That’s why he named the vessel Lau Trader, he says. Before it gets its official launch in Suva next week, the MV Lau Trader set sail from Suva Harbour last night with a group of satisfied Lauans.
The inaugural voyage will make wandering through the village something perfect to do and singing children, doing the butterfly dances a joy to feel. It will also make boys playing touch rugby with a worn-out ball and girls skipping down the length of the beach at Tubou a real pleasure to watch.
To thousands of Lauans, it will make a smoking coconut dryer, imparting a heady nutty smell, and the smell of grilled fish and tapi great things to imagine! It will also create a lazy smile as Na stares at lazy curtains blowing out of a blue corrugated iron home with white window frames.
Most of all, it will make life in Lau worthwhile from now on.
For a group of islands with a strong cultural heritage, a little Western influence, inundated with choirs that boast delicate voices and villages built under a Milky Way-saturated sky with a meteor streaking from horizon to horizon, a ship on the horizon is heavenly. All the time!
Even if it will do the usual island hopping within Northern or Southern Lau, down to the most remote spot and then slow down just one more notch, the MV Lau Trader will bring coffee, pizza, ice cream and doughnuts within reach.


Lau has at least 30 inhabited islands and everyone does his own trade when it comes to sustainable development, Fijian style. It covers nearly 200 square miles with a population of over 10, 000 (2007 Census)
This is not the first time Lau has acquired a ship to service the islands. It’s in fact the third time it will make an attempt to encourage trade.
“It will not only take supplies to the islands but most importantly, it will load them from the islands for the urban market,” Roko Ului said last.
“We are satisfied with what we can do with this for now and we can only hope our people will make full use of the service.”
Roko Ului promises it will serve other groups like, Lomaiviti and even Rotuma, if it’s required.
“If we get called to go to Rotuma we will go to Rotuma, and other groups,” he said. “But the priority today is Lau.”
“The franchise scheme is there and we will become a major player with the Lau Trader set to go now,” he added.
“He also paid tribute to Government for assisting in facilitating the acquisition of the vessel.
“Government has given us the support we need and every venture we do now we will do with diligence,” Roko Ului proudly stated.
“The most important thing is trade in the whole Lau Group and a lot of emphasis will be on stimulating the economy for Lau and hopefully for Fiji.”


The inter-island ferry MV Pulupaki was brought from Tonga to transport hundreds of passengers to Tubou, Lakeba in October 2008. They were eager to get to Ratu Finau Secondary School, one of Lau’s longest established institutions, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary.
The MV Pulupaki services Vava’u, Ha’apai and nearby islands and cost Tongans around NZD$34 for a ten-hour round-trip from the main island Tongatapu.
The MV Pulupaki is an 800-seater ship and travels at 14 – 15 knots. When it served as carrier for the Ratu Finau centennial celebrations last October, it doubled up as a beacon of hope for thousands more stranded for about two months in the islands, itching to travel to Suva.
Ratu Raivalita Uluilakeba manned the operations at the time and told this newspaper the Pulupaki was brought in by Roko Ului “to assist and serve the people of Lau”. Roko Ului had made an earnest promise then – to ensure Lau had a ship by the end of the year. His dream became the main item on the provincial council meeting agenda this year.
His aspirations become Lau’s and its people. Today, the MV Lau Trader will operate under the partnership of three major shareholders of the newly-formed Lau Shipping Company Limited – Lau Provincial Council, Tikina ko Lakeba and Ikavuka Enterprises.
Yatu Lau Company CEO, Michael Makasiale, is on record as saying it was bought from a Dunedin-based company in New Zealand at a cost of a million dollars.
It docked at the Walu Bay slipway for a few weeks for safety clearance by officers of the Fiji Islands Maritime Safety Administration (FIMSA) and many other critical assessment procedures.
It has just been cleared to operate and Roko Ului was quite happy to report on this trial voyage last night.
Makasiale also oversaw its sea trial runs before another major FIMSA assessment in the last few weeks. He said the vessel underwent a major overhaul and had better seats installed on the deck area. That place, Makasiale added, had housed the research laboratory.


At Suva Harbour last night, the magnificent vessel was all lit up as scores of Lauans made their way in by special invitation. Because this is a trial voyage, Roko Ului said at least 80 passengers are on board, along with supplies for the seven islands it will travel to.
The late Tui Nayau Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s sister, Adi Taraivini, is one of the first passengers to travel on the MV Lau Trader.
For sure, this much-awaited trader will be a delightful speck on the horizon when it sails into Lakeba waters this morning. What a way for Lau to ring in the new year!

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