REGIONAL countries still face challenges in providing safe and affordable maritime transport services, says Secretariat of the Pacific Community director general Dr Colin Tukuitonga.
Speaking at a Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministers meeting in Nadi, Dr Tukuitonga said the dependence of Pacific Island Countries on maritime transport had made them vulnerable to increasing shipping costs.
"Although the maritime transport sector is critical for the Pacific region's development efforts and is the backbone to the region's international trade, there continues to be major challenges for many Pacific Island countries," he said.
"For many Pacific Island communities, domestic shipping is the only means of inter-island connectivity and access.
"This places a huge responsibility on regulatory authorities to ensure that vessels operate in a sound, seaworthy condition, posing no danger to the lives of those on board."
He said domestic shipping in the Pacific was not inherently safe, however, recent maritime accidents around the region with many containing common causal factors reinforce the need for greater focus to strengthen safety culture and implement robust safety management systems.