Captain Aneil A Giant in the Tourism Industry

The tourism industry is relatively new by international standards, with any real commercial activity starting after the end of World War 2. Creation of Tourism industry Prior to that there
06 Jan 2018 11:00
Captain Aneil A Giant in the Tourism Industry
The new South Sea Cruises Tiger 4

The tourism industry is relatively new by international standards, with any real commercial activity starting after the end of World War 2.

Creation of Tourism industry

Prior to that there was some fairly specialised activity, as attested to by the recently renovated Grand Pacific Hotel.

An establishment created to cater for the stop-over of cruise liner passengers and a smattering of accommodation offerings in the west, centred around the Port of Lautoka. There was no real organised Industry with product designed specifically for the visitors to Fiji who wanted to experience the tropical environment.

After the war, there was a very good international airport available and Trans Pacific flights stopped in Fiji to refuel and refresh, with a number of passengers getting off to wander around for a few days before getting back on board another aircraft to continue their flight to their ultimate destination.

The opportunities created by the new industry of tourism attracted a certain calibre of man, and a group of people, both men and women, who were fascinated by the concept of looking after tourists and providing services they were prepared to pay for developed around the kernel of the industry.

With all of the Fiji tourism pioneers, I have met or interviewed, there was one dominant feature of their personality, the thing that kept them going through the good times and the tough times.

Every one of them had a passion for the tourists as people and got genuine joy out of making sure that they had a great time while they were in Fiji.


About Captain Aneil Kumar

One such person is a very senior Captain who has spent almost his entire working life with South Sea Cruises.

His name is Aneil Kumar, the longest serving marine staff member of the company, known to everyone in South Sea Cruises and to almost everyone in the tourism industry in Fiji as Captain Aneil.

At a very young age he entered into a life of sea service and on February 2, this year he will have completed 43 years in service with South Sea Cruises.

This is a long time to work with one company and is a reflection of the Captain’s attitudes to the importance of commitment and his love of the work that the company allows him to do.

In his early years he did have an adventurous spirit and took several years out to work on a yacht and sail it to New Zealand on a delivery trip which travelled via Vanuatu and New Caledonia. During the slow sail down to Auckland the yacht owner took time to teach Aneil the art of celestial navigation, using a sextant to take position shots and the reduction tables to plot the course, watch keeping and the maintenance of the logs.

On reaching New Zealand, he spent time working around West Haven Marina and learning a great deal about vessel maintenance.

Captain Aneil arrived back home on Nadi Bay and started serving on a large power cat which had a glass bottom for coral viewing, but it served both as the coral boat and as a transit vessel as required.

In those early days with Limited Island resorts to serve you had to be flexible.

The vessel was sold as a going concern in 1970 but was lost in Cyclone Bebe in 1972.

The Captain took command of a magnificent sailing vessel, the star of a continuing television series in 1972.

She carried 70 passengers and served the three major islands that existed at that time, Castaway, Plantation and Beachcomber Island Resort.

In between delivering guests to the resorts Seaspray was used for day cruises out of Lautoka.


Adventures of Seaspray

With these day trips the Captain developed a fine line of entertaining commentary and embellished Fiji history, bringing his passengers closer to the true Fijian culture and built up a loyal following who came back year after year to enjoy the day with the Captain.

Mana Island Resort opened in 1972 and bought a whole new dimension to Fiji tourism, not in the least because they opened up the lucrative Japan market for the first time.

They also changed the way the transit operations were run.

The company bought Stardust, a 110 foot twin engine vessel which operated from the beach in front of the Regent Hotel on Denarau, now the Westin.

That year the company changed name to South Sea Cruises and embarked on ambitious growth plans.

In November the Captain took charge of the newest fleet addition, a powerful catamaran with a 1000 horsepower to drive it with a full load of 300 passengers.

Again the vessel departed from the Regent Beachfront as the flagship of the South Sea Cruises transfer fleet and the older vessels were used for day cruises and to serve several smaller island resorts.

Stardust was destroyed by a fire in 1977 while moored off and the Captain maintains that it was a careless crew member’s cigarette.

As more resorts opened more vessels were bought into Fiji by South Sea Cruises to service the growing demand.

The Pettit family owned the company but in 1998 Marine Tourism Holidays took over but retained the South Sea Cruises name and, of course, Captain Aneil Kumar.

Since then the company has grown and now has a fleet of seven high speed catamarans to serve the transit operations

Captain Aneil is one of the most experienced Fiji captains around and definitely a mainstay in the South Sea Cruises operations.

He said:“I have been well treated by the company and they have been very loyal throughout my marine career, ensuring that I have access to all the training and technical expertise I needed to continue to fulfil my role as ship’s Master.

“I have never regretted my decision to concentrate on the passenger vessels and have made many friends through my contact with the passengers on board.”

For a man who is, in his own way, a giant in the tourism industry Captain Aneil is quiet and unassuming, but in conversation it becomes obvious that he is a man of vast marine knowledge, a keeper of local marine tourism history and that his great joy is in serving and protecting his passengers.

It is also clear that the Captain has no intention of sailing off into the sunset any time soon.



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