Coral problem delays Asau Wharf revival
The Government is working to revive the Asau wharf and harbour.
But before it can look further to any business prosperity in the seldomly-used port, a hard coral bedding continues to block the mouth of the Asau harbour.
During an interview with the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, he told the Samoa Observer that there has been several attempts to destroy the coral bedding that is interfering with maritime traffic.
He said they are looking to development partners for assistance to conduct a survey on the shallow and narrow channel.
“We are looking at donors to conduct a survey and ways in how to get rid of the coral or could be lava so free up the channel,” said the Minister.
“Once that is done then we can open up the wharf for cruise ships and attract tourists to explore that side of the island in Asau.
“That is the government’s plan in reviving the wharf. There are quite a few investors interested in using the port for alias and vessels from Asia but that is the problem the wharf cannot be used because it is unsafe and it needs to be surveyed first.”
According to the Minister, dynamites were used in the past in an attempt to destroy the coral that blocks the channel.
“It is still there despite those being used to remove it,” he added.
“The other option is to bring in machine to dredge it and get rid.
“Once that obstacle is solved then we can move on to doing survey and prepare plans for developing and utilising the port.”
Asked about concerns on the marine life in their effort to remove the coral bedding, the Minister said that is being considered.
“That is why we are asking for machine to dredge to save marine life and not affect breeding habitat of marine lives.”
Following a recent visit to the Asau port, Papali’i said it is still in good conditions.
The wharf was constructed in the 1960s to support the logging operations of an American company called Potlatch Corporation. It’s operations ended in 1976.
While it was Samoa’s largest employer at that time, the economic boom did not last long, due to the combination of governmental mismanagement of funds and the irrevocable damage being done to the areas primary rainforests by inadequate forest management.
The mouth of Asau Harbour is blocked by a coral reef.
The breakwater protecting the bay is an old American airstrip from World War II.
The port was well used in the past as it was well protected on the east and south by the mainland and on the north and west by coral reefs.
Port of Asau is currently under the care and jurisdictions of Samoa Ports Authority.
The current approach channel has a depth of 5.9m to 6.9m and the width varies from 54m to 38m.
Due to solid and hard coral bed, the channel was not completed as planned to a width of 68.5m and a depth of 10m at low tide in order to target reasonable sized ships to enter the port for future developments.
In the S.P.A. Annual Report 2017, it highlighted plans to widen and deepen the entrance to the Asau Port from 28 meters to 58 meters wide.
It stated those plans are under consideration as well as determining how best the wharf can be utilized to generate economic activities for the island of Savaii and generate more revenue for the Authority.
In the last decade, Government engaged with the American Samoa based cannery StarKist Samoa to develop the channel and the dock as a location for a possible fish processing plant and transshipment facility, but it never amounted to anything.