The recently commissioned $5 million tala submarine cable depot at Apia Wharf will contribute directly and indirectly to the growth of Samoa’s economy.
The Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupai, said this in response questions from Samoa Observer on the benefits of such a project.
The submarine cable vessel, which has a crew of about 60, is just the beginning, with nearly 30 Samoans employed inside the depot working with the cables and the overseas crew.
T.E SubCom, the company that owns the cable maintenance vessel, has invited a small number of locals on board the vessel and will train under the crew to learn to repair submarine cables, Afamasaga said.
By having locals in and around the vessel and the depot, more people will learn the skills needed to work in cabling and open up greater opportunities to work he added, and eventually he would like to see half of the crew being Samoan.
T.E SubCom will also save money on airfares as the Minister indicated that the crew will fly Samoa Airways.
So outside of the vessel and depot crew, Afamasaga believes the broader economic effects are immense, as there will be a growing demand for restaurants, hotels, care rentals, water suppliers, petrol and more, he said.
This is why he will not insist that T.E SubCom guarantee they train local people to work on the vessels and in the depot, despite those technical and engineering jobs being promised as a result of the depot’s establishment in Samoa.
“We are having discussions with the company to start training our own people here and build capacity of our locals.
“We are given the chance right now for some of our locals to go on the boat and learn skills like splicing cables and there is a lot of room there for electrical engineers and mechanical engineers,” he said.
Afamasaga said the Ministry explained to T.E SubCom that they wanted capacity building to happen, but it will not be written into any agreements with the company, in case it risks the contracts completely.
However, he said he is not concerned the company will invest time into training local staff regardless.
“It’s almost a no brainer to employ Samoans on this boat to keep the expenses down, but that is really up to the company, and we don’t want to push it.”
He said to focus on the potential upskilling of Samoans working in cable maintenance versus the economic impact for hospitality and retail would be to pay too much attention to a “fraction of a very big picture”.
“If we push hard to have our people employed on the boats, and the risk is losing these contracts because of our persistence to have this done in the contract, you are losing $1,000 tala because you are pushing for one tala value, so to speak,” he said.