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Another blow for Manu'a residents: hike in shipping rates for vehicles

Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele [SN file photo]
Manu'a faipule says he knows nothing about it

The Department of Port Administration has raised the rate for one-way shipping of private vehicles between Tutuila and Manu’a and the move is not sitting well with some members of the community, including one elderly woman who recently had a family car shipped to her from the US early last month, with plans to ship the vehicle to Ta'u, Manu'a.

The woman, who asked not be identified, asked that Samoa News contact House Vice Speaker, Fetu Fetui Jr., for “help” in lowering the cost, saying in Samoan, “Mamafa kele legei avega fa’aopoopo mo tagata Manu’a (another heavy burden for Manu’a residents).”

The woman called on Port and ASG to show some love for Manu’a residents, who are already burdened with high cost of goods sold in Manu’a. “Fa’aali se alofa mo tagata Manu’a,” she said.

 A Dec. 13, 2017 general public memo signed by Port Administration director, Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele, and posted at the Port facility, notes that effective Jan. 2, 2018, the new rate to ship any private vehicle “one-way between Pago Pago and Manu’a wharves will increase from $135 to $200.”

“The high demand for more service delivery across the board, and most importantly the frequent travel of passengers has created additional trips for Manu’a,” the memo states. “This has made it eminent to thoroughly review this fee and increase accordingly.”

The memo goes on to say that those with concerns regarding the matter are asked to contact the Port’s Business Office at 633-4251.

“May you have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year,” was the closing sentence.

Two Manu’a residents contacted yesterday for comments on the rate hike could only make fun of the closing sentence. “So the government hikes the rate and they give us this holiday greeting? Is this a joke? Is this a slap in the face?”

Taimalelagi didn’t immediately respond to Samoa News email inquiries on the shipping rate hike.

When contacted yesterday, Fetui said he has not seen the memo, neither has he been informed about the rate increase, but he will inquire with Port Administration, as the hike is just another financial burden for Manu’a.

He pointed out that during the last House committee hearing (which was around September/October last year) on rates for shipments to and from Manu’a, the director was asked to review all the rates that were already implemented at the time.

“Before Port Administration reaches a decision on their own, it's always best that many people are involved in discussions,” said Fetui, adding that the concerns raised with Taimalelagi, are that, for many years, Manu’a has been suffering, with the high cost of living and any new added costs continue to make the situation worse.

For example, he said, the cost of goods sold in Manu’a stores is double or sometimes triple what is charged for the same goods sold in Tutuila and this is the reason why Manu’a residents travel here to make their purchases.

He said while he understands that the cost of fuel to operate the vessel is high, the government should look at Manu’a residents, who already carry a heavy financial burden, something they “continue to face.”

Fetui, who has been a lawmaker for many years, said he has been fighting for Manu’a residents since he came to the Fono and “I will continue to do so, because we need help.”

He believes the Manu’a forefathers didn’t want island residents to face this type of hardship for long. “At least our government pays half of these services for Manu’a,” he said in a sad tone, but added, “I will always fight, along with my Manu’a colleague, Rep. Vesi Fautanu in the House, for Manu’a residents.”

Meanwhile, the woman who spoke to Samoa News said the $65 increase in shipping charges ($135 to $200) “is a lot of money that can go to other family obligations or buy material for her children’s school uniforms, instead of my family having to give it to Port Administration.”