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Biggest vessel built in Fiji up for sale

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Captain Cook Cruises Fiji managing director Captain Semi Koroilavesau will be on board the Reef Endeavour, the largest ship ever built in Fiji, when it makes its final cruise this Friday before it is put on the market.

Mr Koroilavesau was responsible for delivering the vessel to Australia when it was built in 1996 and he will finally be able to enjoy a cruise on the vessel before its owner Captain Cook Cruises of Australia sells it.

Mr Koroilavesau, the chairman of Fiji Ports Corporation, said that he would fly out to Australia tomorrow, to be part of the vessel's final cruise over the Great Barrier Reef.

"I delivered the ship to Australia in 1996 and this would be my first cruise," he said.

Mr Koroilavesau said ship took three years to build at the then Government shipyard in Walu Bay, Suva.

"It was the largest ship that was built in Fiji," he said.

Mr Koroilavesau said that it was largest in terms of tonnage and passengers.

"It weighs 3000 tonnes and can carry 150 overnight passengers," he said.

He said that the sale of the vessel would not affect the Fiji operation in anyway.

"We are in partnership with the Australian company through the owners, but the sale of the Reef Endeavour will not in any way affect us,' he said.

"It might affect the business in Cairns, but not us."

Mr Koroilavesau said that he was looking forward to his cruise, especially when it would be the vessel's final one.

The vessel had dominated the waters of the Coral Sea for 12 years.

The vessel will dock at Cairns for possibly the last time on February 25, after owners Captain Cook Cruises announced plans to sell her.

Captain Cook joint managing director Jackie Haworth-Charlton said the company made a marketing partnership with Cairns company Coral Princess Cruises and the decision was made not to compete against one another. Reef Endeavour also struggled for fuel efficiency while its all-Australian crew was expensive compared to crews from larger cruise ships which visit Fiji.

Meanwhile, the high Australian dollar has dented the number of available tourists.

Ms Haworth-Charlton said the decision to sell was not taken lightly.

"There is a lot of sadness as we've got people who were there since we started back in 1991," Ms Haworth-Charlton said.

"Coral Princess are a bit more casual and fun and have a good focus on diving," she said.

Reef Endeavour replaced Reef Escape which operated from 1991-96.

Although the crew is not guaranteed jobs, Ms Haworth-Charlton said most staff should be able to find work with their other operations or with Coral Princess.

Captain Cook Cruises executive chairman Trevor Haworth said he remembered seeing the ship built in Fiji years ago.

"It is a very sad time for us presently but I have to say she was very successful," Captain Haworth said.

The company is negotiating with several buyers for the vessel, which is likely to find a new home in North America.

Captain Cook Cruises and Coral Princess are also planning a new specially-built ship to operate three, four and seven-night Great Barrier Reef cruises.

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