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PM talks Pacific Forum Line, planned Vaiusu port

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has outlined government’s reasons for purchasing the Pacific Forum Line and plans to relocate the wharf from Matautu to Vaiusu.

At the Cabinet Development Committee meeting last week attended by Cabinet, chief executive officers and top-level public servants – Prime Minister Tuilaepa spoke on the need to plan port development to account for growing port demand of the future.

“We have to look 50 years, even 100 years to the future,” he said.

“The present port at Matautu is already meeting limitations with nowhere to expand the wharf to and container hold.”

The Prime Minister then directed the relevant ministries, government architects and engineers to review an engineering report done some 50 years ago by overseas-based engineers, before the Matautu Wharf was built, identifying Vaiusu Bay as the ideal location for port development. It is also ideal in relocating petroleum tanks, the Prime Minister said, “is very awkward at its current Sogi location.”

“This is a project that can take effect immediately and take up to ten years to build. If Apia is to feature as the future international shipping hub of the Pacific region, this is the sort of forward-thinking we ought to adopt now. Matautu Port is already heavily congested. We had a couple of cruise ships in port last week and one cruise ship completely covered the Matautu Wharf from end to end. Looking ahead, we need a port that can accommodate fifty to a hundred ships at once.”

Discussion of the relocation of the wharf came about during discussion of a submission by the National University of Samoa on the building of a maritime training facility at Mulinu’u.

“This ties in very well with our planned port development,” said the prime minister. “We need a maritime training center that not only trains sailors but office class ranks.”

The recent purchasing of the Pacific Forum Line will also provide these maritime graduates with job opportunities, the PM said.

“There are many positive returns for Samoa’s bold acquisition of PFL. There is innovation in the sense of creating competition in regional shipping and ensuring that sailing schedules are regular. That we have a strong say in those schedules and not foreign-controlled.

“PFL of course was created at the time when Union Steamships was in complete control of shipping between Samoa and New Zealand. Samoa then suffered from irregular shipping services with freight costs beyond our control because of that monopoly and the lack of competition it spurred. We don’t want to experience that again.

“Our export sector, our shipping links with our major trading partners and the welfare of companies like Yazaki Samoa that operate here rely heavily on regular shipping schedules that cannot be left to the whim of foreign interests and control.

“For our local people, national control of shipping is good for business as well as provide employment and experience for our sailors and accredited ship officers. It is also important to point out that we have been running and managing successfully the Samoa Shipping Services and the Samoa Shipping Corporation for many years.  So the capacity of our own people to manage a regional shipping line cannot be understated. That ability already exists in Samoa.”

To sum up discussions, the Prime Minister said, “The acquisition of PFL is no different from the successful experiment we ventured into in regards to air service. The joint-venture with Virgin Airlines is a unique model upon which other countries have used to turn their weak airlines around.