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Parliamentarians discuss harbour clean-up, removal of wrecks

Solomone Rabulu
Thursday, February 01, 2018

EXCERPTS from the Hansard report of the parliamentary oral question 123 of April 27, 2017, by the Leader of the Opposition to the Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport Parveen Kumar. The question was regarding the removal of derelict vessels and the Suva Harbour clean-up.

Leader of Opposition Ro Teimumu Kepa asked the Government, upon notice:

Can the honourable Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport explain what their ministry is doing about the sunken derelict ships in Suva Harbour, madam Speaker? I believe 29 had been identified by the people of the tikina of Suva that in Suva Harbour they are posing a danger to maritime navigation and are the cause of much pollution from the deteriorating hulls to the unknown nature of their cargo, as well as the release of fuel and oil into the maritime environment.

Mr Kumar (Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport).

Madam Speaker, I rise to respond to the question asked by the honourable Leader of the Opposition and I also thank her for asking the question.

At the outset, madam Speaker, anything to do with ports and harbour is under Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd. It is under the Seaport Management Act 2005 and Seaport Regulation 2008 and directly falls under the Minister for Public Enterprises. This is another correction, madam Speaker.

Nevertheless, madam Speaker, if there is an incident within a port boundaries such as grounding or sinking of vessels then this is reported to MSAF and then MSAF will notify the shipowner to immediately remove any fuel or harmful substance from the ship.

Madam Speaker, MSAF pollution officer will check to ensure that this is carried out. Madam speaker, any pollution incident arising out of any incident within the port boundary Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd as the ports operator is the first responder.

Madam Speaker, MSAF's responsibilities to monitor, respond and provide additional equipment and workforce if Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd's capacity is insufficient to contain and clean up the oil spill. Thank you, madam Speaker.

Ro Teimumu — madam Speaker, in regards to the environment and the toxic materials that are there in the harbour, which are contaminating the fish and the shellfish that people eat.

Mr Kumar — Thank you madam Speaker. The information that I have from MSAF is that there were few cases in relation to what the honourable Leader of Opposition has raised. They have taken out the water samples to the lab and there were some cases where owners were given notices. In some cases, there were no fuel or oil really despite the complaint and that is what the investigation report reveals.

Parliamentarian Parmod Chand — madam Speaker, ... I would like to ask him if he can inform the House if there are legislation and laws in place to remove such debris and sunken ships from our ports by the owners. If there are none, are there any plans for the Government to put in laws and measures that the owners of the vessels will be able to remove their vessels by law.

Mr Kumar — madam Speaker, during my response I have clearly stated that in terms of removal, it comes under Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd. I cannot and will not comment on the responsibility of other ministries.

Opposition member Ratu Kiniviliame Kiliraki — madam Speaker, again since the honourable minister has answered the principal question, I assume that he has taken over also the MSAF responsibility in regards to the question. In the seamen's jargon that Suva Harbour is a ship hospital because as you go from the Tamavua river mouth, there are lots of vessels that are tied up for years, and it is also called the graveyard because of the sunken vessels of 29 and the Suva Harbour is well known for breeding the ecosystems in the fisheries sector. Is there any assessment in regards to the fisheries aspect of this environment been done to be able for the owners to be compensated?

Mr Kumar — madam Speaker, as far as I am concerned and I stand to be corrected, there has been no complaint in terms of what the honourable members have raised and there has been no investigation done to that.

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