Editorial comment – Removing our derelict vessels

Twenty derelict vessels are yet to be removed from ports' boundaries around the country. Picture: FT FILE

The revelation that 20 derelict vessels have still not been removed from ports’ boundaries around the country is a concern. Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd (FPCL) chief executive officer Vajira Piyasena highlighted this issue during his submissions to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs on the FPCL 2016 annual report in Suva yesterday. He said the vessels were in different locations, but did not directly impact FPCL’s navigations and other operations. But, in terms of future developments and clearing up of the harbour, he said, these derelicts had to be removed. Two vessels were removed between 2015 and 2016 from the Suva Harbour, he said. He said they were sold to scrap metal dealers and cost FPCL more than $220,000 to remove. Another vessel, the MV Sea Love, was also removed with costs amounting to more than $85,000, he said. Most local inter-island vessels did not have wreck removal insurance which caused a lot of risk, he said. If things continue the way they are going, it makes sense that people of Suva might just get to see the unthinkable happen, when ships of all sizes, shapes and colours actually clog the harbour for starters. It seems fishing vessels find the Suva Harbour the place to be, with some overseas companies obviously opting to berth in Fiji during the off-season. Fiji’s environmental laws are reportedly quite clear. Dumping of waste into Fiji waters is prohibited and such action is considered even more serious if marine life is harmed. Whether the Suva Harbour is becoming dangerously overcrowded is up for contention. Should there be radical rules imposed to put a limit to the number of vessels that can use the harbour at any one time? Is there a need for a sort of traffic management plan or system that ties in safety needs for everyone using the harbour? Hopefully there will not be any near-misses in the future as the number of vessels berthed here rises. Obviously an important issue is safety and the need to ensure this is not compromised. Then there are the side issues such as waste management and the issue of border control. One wonders whether there is a limit on the number of people allowed to be on board and for how long. Let’s face it, the onus really is now on the relevant authorities to ensure our laws are adhered to, and there are reasonable safety standards. Otherwise we could end up being a paradise for derelict vessels.

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