Fiji Time: 2:28 PM on Wednesday 26 November

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Wreckage threat

Mere Naleba
Thursday, April 17, 2014

THERE are 34 ships submerged or partly submerged in Fiji waters, a survey has revealed.

Of these, 18 are more than 15 years old.

The survey, conducted by the Marine Resource Assessment, Development and Management on ship groundings in the Pacific, states that 11 are fishing vessels, six tankers, one bulk carrier, 11 cargo vessels and five ships in the others category.

It further states that Fiji has 123 vessels between 10 and 1000 gross registered tonnage (GRT) and seven vessels greater than 1000 GRT.

The MV Na Mataisau, a government ship that suffered engine problems while anchored in open waters off Moala in Lau, is among ships listed in the others category.

The ship ran aground on January 18, 1985, and eventually sank hours later, killing two.

The 274-tonnage cargo ferry was only seven years old when the incident happened.

Villagers of Nuku on Moala Island are now seeking government's assistance in trying to remove the wreck from their beachfront.

Nuku Village headmen Jimi Malumu claims seafood in their area is now scarce because of drums of fuel that were on board the vessel.

The vessel was swept ashore by strong waves during Cyclone Eric the same year.

"We have been asking all government delegations that visit our village for assistance because we feel that this vessel is the reason why we can't get any more fresh fish and seafood. Up until now, nothing has been done," he said.

Tevita Tuikabara, of Vatoa Village in Lau, echoed Mr Malumu's sentiments, saying three foreign fishing vessels and a local vessel are submerged along Vuata Reef in Vatoa.

Mr Tuikabara said the US freighter SS Thomas A Edison struck the reef in 1942 and the fleet tug USS Grebe suffered the same fate when it tried to salvage it.

Norwegian vessel Ragna Ringdal sank there in 1962 while the Labasa Princess fell victim to it in 1973.

"We are requesting that something be done about these ships. The future of our children are at stake because who knows maybe in the next few years nothing will be left for them from the sea," he said.

Questions sent to the Department of Environment, the Ministry of Works, Transport and Public Utilities and WWF on April 1 regarding the issue remained unanswered yesterday.





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