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ASG’s new MV Manu’atele still not ready for maiden voyage

ASG’s new MV Manu’atele during one of its three turnarounds in front of the main docks in Fagatogo, upon sailing into the Port of Pago Pago on Jan. 4. It is still awaiting US Coast Guard clearance for its maiden voyage to the Manu’a islands. See story below.  [photo: AF]

The government’s $13.6 million vessel, MV Manu’atele, has yet to sail to the Manu’a island group, as planned for last week, while there are at least two US Coast Guard issues to be addressed first by Port Administration.

The vessel was to have sailed to Manu’a last week Wednesday after a problem with the “bow thruster” was fixed. However, the MV Manu’atele is still in Tutuila and Port Administration Acting Director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele didn’t immediately respond to a Samoa News’ email request for comments on the status of the vessel, as Manu’a residents are wondering when it will make a maiden voyage to the island group.

Samoa News asked the local US Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment unit if there are any USCG issues that might have caused the delay in the vessel’s sail to Manu’a, where ASG has projects to be dedicated.

Warrant Officer Joe Twiddy with the local Coast Guard unit responded in a brief telephone interview yesterday.

He said that one of the issues for the delay deals with the “vessel’s response plan in case of an oil spill and this deals with cargo operations.” He explained that the plan is submitted to the Coast Guard on the mainland and approval is pending at this point.

“For passenger [side], the fire panel is not working properly and the vessel cannot operate until it’s fixed,” Twiddy said.

It’s unclear at this point when these two issues are expected to be addressed for the vessel, which arrived in the territory on Jan. 4 followed by a Jan. 9 christening ceremony, where Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the vessel would, among other things, reduce reliance on others to serve Manu’a and provide regular trips.

In his official written State of the Territory Address, Lolo said one of the important developments for Manu’a was to improve the quality of living and economic boost to improve ocean transportation.

He said the administration built and purchased the MV Manu’atele, which has a better and efficient payload capacity to accommodate further transportation services provided by the MV Sili to Manu’a, as well as other economic opportunities including possible international travel and trading with other neighboring islands such as Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Niue, Tokelau, Cook Islands and Tuvalu.

Meanwhile, the MV Sili, the second and older ASG vessel, was loading up yesterday for the trip to Manu’a.