About the Asau Harbour entrance

Dear Editor,

It is good to hear that another attempt is to be made to widen and deepen the channel entrance to Asau Harbour, but there are potentially a few problems.

In 1969, I was staying in Asau being responsible for the Potlach timber mill site layout surveys. At that time the excavation and dredging of the channel entrance was being undertaken simultaneously by Wilkins and Davies, a very experienced New Zealand heavy earthmoving contractor. 

Whilst I was not directly involved in this aspect I did assist from time to time with the measurement of the excavation achieved so was well aware of progress, or lack thereof.

The intention was to achieve a safe passage for vessels large enough to ship the hardwood timber directly to the United States. 

Work at first proceeded well, but as the depth increased the relatively soft coral became progressively harder and before the planned depth and width could be achieved it was found that further excavation was not practical, despite the use of very heavy machinery and extensive blasting. 

Because of this further work had to be abandoned and the present unsatisfactory entrance is the result. 

Unfortunately the present wharf was constructed at the same time as the first Apia wharf in 1966 prior to the entrance works and has of course never achieved its intended purpose. Potlach were forced to employ smaller vessels to ship to Apia and then transship from there and this was one of the factors in the failure of the operation; although poor planning of the available hardwood reserves in the first place was the principal cause.

Not being party to the decision process at the time, I do not know if the decision to stop was based on the impracticality of further work or if a budgeting limit had been exceeded.  

Perhaps nowadays superior means exist to complete the excavation, but reef blasting is not so readily employable under current environmental laws.  

I feel the need to point out these difficulties as few would now be aware of the problems at the time and it needs to be taken into account in planning of the works so as to avoid a second failure.


Michael Anderson

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