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MV Manu’atele now in the water, ready for test trials

In this Aug. 29 photo, provided by South Whidbey Record newspaper with permission to reprint in Samoa News, the new ASG vessel Manu’atele at the Langley dock facility in Washington State. The vessel is tentatively scheduled to sail out of Washington State on Sept. 20, with a stop in Hawai’i arriving in Pago Pago next month.  [photo: Justin Burnett/South Whidbey Record]
Tentative schedule: Pago next month

American Samoa’s new multi-million dollar vessel the MV Manu’atele is now in the water at the Langley dock facility in Washington State, where the Nichols Brothers shipbuilders built it, says Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele.

Washington State-based South Whidbey Record newspaper reports Tuesday that the vessel went into the water on Monday and photos provided by the publication show the dark green 140-by-38-by-8’6-foot multipurpose cargo and ferry vessel boat for the American Samoa government.

Construction began in the fall of 2015 for the vessel, which will sail between Tutuila and the Manu’a Islands. Two Caterpillar 32C engines will power the vessel, with a horsepower of 850 each. The vessel is currently docked at Nichols’ Langley facility, the newspaper reports.

Responding to Samoa News questions, Taimalelagi said Nichols Brothers had the boat transferred to the Langley dock while they continued to work on completing the project. And the test trials are scheduled to begin on September 3 — tomorrow — and will take two weeks.

“We are tentatively planning that the boat will begin its journey to Hawai’i around September 20,” she said, adding that the vessel will refuel in Hawai’i and resupply the provisions for the crew.

The vessel is expected to be in Hawai’i from Oct. 6 and on Oct. 8 the vessel will continue its “journey home” to American Samoa, according to Taimalelagi, who noted that the tentative arrival date in Pago Pago is Oct. 25.

She explains the difference between the MV Sili, a 30-year old vessel, and the new Manu’atele. She said the MV Sili was used in the Gulf area — on the US mainland — as a refueling vessel and not passenger/cargo.

“If you have been on the MV Sili, passengers sit on the bottom and second level... open space area. The chairs and bench style seats are very uncomfortable,” she said. “The new vessel will have an enclosed, air-conditioned area that will seat 120 passengers. The chairs are individual and cushioned.”

“The new boat has a slightly smaller deck space. The equipment on the boat is high-tech computerized,” Taimalelagi said proudly.

Samoa News understands the government is looking at sending a delegation to Washington State for a “blessing ceremony” before the vessel sails to Hawai’i. However, details are not firmed up at this point.

During recent Fono hearings, Manu’a lawmakers expressed appreciation to the government for the new Manu’atele vessel, which they say will further important transportation service to the island group.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the vessel construction project is funded with $8.6 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding from the US Interior Department and $5 million in proceeds from the American Samoa Economic Development Authority’s issued bonds.

The vessel can also sail to other neighboring countries such as Samoa and Tokelau, as well as the Swains Islands.