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Getting rid of the derelicts

Fred Wesley
Saturday, February 03, 2018

The revelation that "funding constraints" are hindering the removal of derelict vessels in Suva Harbour will raise some concern.

Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd CEO Vajira Piyasena said there were nine vessels submerged within the harbour.

Their removal was subject to availability of funds though. Pacific Towing Ltd, a Papua New Guinea-based company, as well as Perrott Salvage Pty Ltd Australia, he said, had been identified to carry out assessment work which included the possible removal of the MV Southern Phoenix.

The removal of other derelicts will be subject to availability of funds though. Acquiring funds was the biggest challenge, he said.

Mr Piyasena said last year, FPCL paid more than $220,000 to remove two vessels — MV Sea Love and MV Tovuto. It cost $85,000 to winch the partially submerged Sea Love to dry ground. The Tovuto was towed and scuttled 1.4 miles south-west of the main Suva passage.

Two vessels, he said, were on top of FPCL's removal list — the MV Suilven and MV Southern Phoenix.

The MV Suilven sank in the Suva Harbour on November 24, 2015. MV Suilven was carrying 25 twenty-feet reefer containers and four trucks, including 30 crew members and four passengers who were the truck drivers, at the time it went down. The MV Southern Phoenix sank in Suva Harbour on May 6 last year, carrying 183 metric tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 30 metric tonnes of medium diesel oil, 179 containers, break bulk cargo and other cargo.

Derelicts that litter the harbour should be removed.

It makes sense then, that we should put in place stringent measures that will protect our harbour well into the future. Otherwise, we may just as well send out a memo suggesting we have a harbour for derelict vessels. Surely, there are issues that will be raised by people concerned about the rising number of vessels finding their way to Suva, given the location of our harbour, availability of appropriate facilities for repair and maintenance work for vessels, resupply of rations, and proximity to fishing grounds in the region.

We must question though, whether this is significant enough to overshadow issues such as environmental pollution. Over the years, the beauty of the Suva Harbour has been overtaken by derelict vessels.

They pose a threat to local vessels using the harbour and are a major environmental issue. They are ugly and are eyesores in the harbour.

Derelict vessels reflect badly on us when we talk about the value that should be placed on our environment and our waterfront.

We must put our foot down and owners of such vessels must get the message that we value our marine resources and harbour. They must remove these rusty, ugly, old iron waste that were once vessels.

We must protect our environment, and if it means putting in place very tough laws and requirements to use our harbour in the future, then so be it.

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