SHIPPING

Local Ship Owners Need Protection

Existing operators with the intention to improve their shipping business, compliance to Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) standard and also procure newer replacement inter-island vessels for their fleet are holding back. This is because there is no control mechanism in place to guarantee the viability of shipping business.
17 Jun 2020 13:07
Local Ship Owners Need Protection
Local inter island vessels at Port Mua-i-Walu

Local ship owners are unsure of what lays ahead in the future for the shipping sector.

The influx of vessels recently in the last couple of years is worrying.

Existing operators with the intention to improve their shipping business, compliance to Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) standard and also procure newer replacement inter-island vessels for their fleet are holding back. This is because there is no control mechanism in place to guarantee the viability of shipping business.

The volume of cargo and passengers are still the same and recently dropped because of the Covid19.

Director Victoria Marine Limited, Joe Tagi, said they had been submitting required information and movement data to the Government Transport Planning Unit (TPU) as per requirement for the franchise run.

“We hope that these be used for planning and improving the shipping services for economical and uneconomical routes,” he said.

Mr Tagi said there are a number of pending issues at hand now.

“But the most important and pressing issues for the shipping operators are the Sea Route Licensing and Franchise Awards as these will protect their shipping businesses. We are still waiting, and not sure when these will materialise.”

Patterson Brothers Shipping Company, Venu Shipping, Cruz Holdings Limited, South Island Shipping Services, Tokalau Shipping Limited and Valesasa Transport Company have voiced the same concern.

“Statistics given should be ana­lysed and be used for improvement, efficient operation, and justifica­tion of the number of ships permitted to operate in Fiji. Statistics will help the number of vessels best for a route, type and size of vessel be used, better jetties, access to the islands.”

Mr Tagi said having these two issues final­ised, formalised and awarded would ease off the current topical issues at hand and operators could also plan their business confidently.

“We all want to improve our fleets by buying newer vessels but operators are reluctant at the moment and putting that on hold.”

According to Mr Tagi, if the two issues are further delayed, then we anticipate more ships, leading to overcrowded routes, low revenue leading to sub-standard vessels and yes not good for business and for the public.

“Existing operators require protection, and having these licenses in place will be the first step to a better future.”

He said it’s critical that there is a benchmark policy in place to control the influx of inter-island vessels into Fiji.

“In my opinion, now is the best time to implement Sea Route Licensing and at the same time award Franchise.”

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport Media Liaison Officer yesterday said the ministry would not provide any comments as con­firmed by the Director Transport.

Feedback: lusiana.tuimaisala@fijisun.com.fj

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