COMMISSIONER Eastern Lieutenant Colonel Netani Rika is urging the people of Lomaiviti to treat shipping companies that service the province with honesty and respect.
Lt-Col Rika said when shipping companies were appreciated and respected for what they do, they would reciprocate with continued and improved services.
He said a shipping company had agreed to sign a franchise partnership to service the islands of Gau, Nairai and Batiki in the Lomaiviti Province this year.
The company, he added, was trying to organise the logistics and finalise arrangements before commencing with the franchise service to the province.
Lt-Col Rika said while Lau, Kadavu and Rotuma had no problem with the franchise agreement, Lomaiviti was not included in it.
He said the reluctance of shipping companies to service islands in the Lomaiviti Group was partly because the islanders were unappreciative and ungrateful for the service provided.
"The onus is on the chiefs, district representative and leaders in these islands to address this issue with the people so that they understand the importance of running a shipping business," said Lt-Col Rika.
The Commissioner Eastern has assured the people of Lomaiviti that once the rehabilitation work was completed in the Western Division government vessels would resume their service in the province.
Meanwhile, thousands of students and parents from the Lomaiviti Group are expected to return to their home islands this week, ahead of the start of the new school term on January 22.
While those travelling to Koro and Ovalau enjoy regular shipping service, those from other islands will be looking for alternative routes and vessels to get home this week and next.
Because of the shipping problem, some will defy warnings and opt to travel on fibreglass boats without safety equipment.
Maritime and police officials have been directed to keep a look out for such activities to ensure that all vessels comply with the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji codes.
This is to minimise the risks of loss of life and property.