GOVERNMENT BOOSTS SHIPPING SERVICES

CAPTION:?Permanent Secretary for Works Transport and Public Utilities Commander Francis Kean. Photo: FIJI TIMES.

The Government is bolstering shipping services to certain maritime communities throughout Fiji in response to complaints by some communities of an unreliable service.

Two extra vessels have been provided by the Government Shipping Service to enable private shipping companies to meet demand under the Fiji Shipping Franchise Scheme.

They are the Iloilovatu, which sailed yesterday for the Lau Group – and the Rogovoka ? which has mechanical problems but should be back in service by the end of the month.

The Permanent Secretary for Works, Transport and Public Utilities, Commander Francis Kean, said engineers were working around the clock to fix the Rogovoka and obtain Maritime Safety Authority clearance for it to sail.

?We?re confident that we can do this within the next two weeks and have it back on line,? he said.

Commander Kean announced new sailings to make up the shortfall after contracts were signed with all but one of the main shipping lines. The exception is Gounder Shipping.

The Iloilovatu sailed yesterday for Northern Lau (Vanuabalavu and Cicia) and Upper Southern Lau ( Lakeba, Oneata, Moce, Komo, Namuka-i-Lau and Vanua Vata ) and will return to Suva on April 25th. From May 2nd, the Iloilovatu will service Yasayasa Moala ( Moala, Matuku and Totoya) and lower Southern Lau ( Kabara, Fulaga, Yasaya Moala Ogea, Vatoa and Ono-i-Lau).

Next week, the Sandy will service the Lomaiviti Group ( Gau, Nairai and Batiki). And the Westerland will leave Lautoka on April 28th?to service the Yasawas ( Yasawa-i-ra, Waya and Viwa).

When the Rogovoka is cleared to sail, it will service Kadavu and Rotuma.

Commander Kean said shipping had been disrupted because of a number of factors in recent times but the Government had acted decisively in response.

?A lot of these issues are beyond our control. Some of the vessels have had mechanical problems and the Lau Trader suffered a fire on board. There have also been issues with delayed payments to the operators but 70 per cent of the outstanding invoices have now been cleared. The rest will be paid when the owners provide us with the necessary documentation,? he said.

Commander Kean said some complaints aired in the media of communities running out of food because of a lack of service were not borne out by the facts.

?I can assure the public that we are monitoring the situation closely and there is no crisis,? he said.

MINFO