NEWS

Goundar Shipping, Ports Authority Point Fingers Over Drama at Mua-i-Walu Jetty

A war of words has erupted between Goundar Shipping Services and Fiji Ports Corporation Limited (FPCL). Owners of the shipping services say FPCL has repeatedly ignored warnings that the situation at
25 Dec 2017 15:25
Goundar Shipping, Ports Authority Point Fingers Over Drama at Mua-i-Walu Jetty

war of words has erupted between Goundar Shipping Services and Fiji Ports Corporation Limited (FPCL).

Owners of the shipping services say FPCL has repeatedly ignored warnings that the situation at the Mua-i-Walu jetty would be difficult to control on the weekend before Christmas.

On the other hand FPCL said improper scheduling and irresponsibility on the part of the ship owners led to chaos last Friday when some passengers bound for Vanua Levu and the maritime islands were grounded.

But, Goundar Shipping Services managing director George Goundar, said FPCL knew about the issue on Friday. They were told two weeks ago that they expected thousands of people travelling out of that wharf (Mua-i-Walu).

Goundar Shipping is the biggest operator at Port Mua-i-Walu with its fleet of roll-on, roll-off passenger and vehicle ferries. The corporation operates the jetty.

“The main reason for the delay was because I could not load the vehicles. From 6pm I had been calling FPCL to allow us to go to the main wharf so we could load our vehicles and pick the passengers on time – but no-one answered the phone,” Mr Goundar said.

“The port is too small to accommodate four Goundar Shipping vessels loading at the same place.”

Angry passengers posted images of large crowds lined-up in the docking area waiting to board vessels. One ship, the Lomaiviti Princess V, was delayed by eight hours.

FPCL chief executive officer Vajira Piyasena said the management of passengers and scheduling fell on the shoulders of ship owners.

Mr Piyasena accused them of allowing more passengers than they could carry on board, something Mr Goundar dismissed as “lies”.

“FPCL’s responsibility is to basically accommodate vessels when they arrive and facilitate their loading, but if they overload passengers we have no control over that,” Mr Piyasena said.

“And then if you see, for example, their docket charge is $54 for 24 hours. This is the kind of docket fee they pay and it is negligible for us. It is purely a social obligation and it’s a service we provide.

“We cannot take the blame when they do these kinds of things.”

Mr Goundar said passengers bound for Kavala in Kadavu were denied boarding because of the large number of people already on board the Lomaiviti Princess I traveling to Vunisea.

“There were more than 500 passengers going to Vunisea, we took the Kavala passengers out because we knew it would reach over 1000,” he said.

“There will be no compensation for Kavala passengers because they were notified way ahead – we gave them two days’ notice and it was broadcast on the radio.”

No ship can leave port without approval from the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF).

Mr Goundar said the shipping service had been working closely with MSAF to ensure all regulations were followed.

Images acquired by Fiji Sun showed a large number of passengers sleeping on mats along corridors and near seating areas on the Lomaiviti Princess V.

Passengers are known to buy cheaper seats on the ships but then choose to sleep on the floor during voyages.

Edited by Percy Kean

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj



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