Maritime safety concerns paramount: Pacific Community chief

Domestic maritime transportation safety continues to be an issue for the Pacific region and it's high time Governments work towards implementing safety standards and requirements, says the Pacific Community’s (S.P.C.) Director General.

Dr. Colin Tukuitonga said the S.P.C. views domestic shipping as important and the safety of the public travelling on board inter-island vessels continues to pose problems.

"We’ve had major disasters in the region because, generally speaking, there’s not enough attention on the safety of ships, the ships are old, they are not well maintained, the seafarers are not necessarily well supported, but people rely on shipping because the airline fares are too expensive, so it’s a really big problem," he said. 

“For us in this region, the real issue is domestic shipping because it’s still a major risk for those who travel."

Dr. Tukuitonga said people rely on safe shipping when travelling domestically and it’s the Government’s responsibility to ensure that.

“At S.P.C., we regard that as important and we do the best we can to help the individual governments to meet certain standards, we train people, we provide the resources we can but it’s an ongoing challenge," he said. 

“And we at S.P.C. are trying to help the Governments to make sure there are some kinds of standard for the seafarers, for the ships, for the ports to try and make it possible.

“There’s a shared agreement on improving the safety standards. But knowing what those safety standards are and meeting those standards are two different things so we try and encourage governments to adopt those safety standards.

“From S.P.C., we are concerned that the requirement and standard of domestic shipping are not quite there yet and we want to continue to try and get the resources from the development partners.”

He acknowledged New Zealand and development partners for their assistance and the local Governments.

“But the needs are always greater than what we people have, so we do the best we can,” Dr. Tukuitonga said.

“These are folks who don’t have a lot of resources or cash, because often when you lift resources, fare goes up, so we need to make sure we get safe as we can but also ensure it is affordable to many especially those on the outer islands

“Affordability is one part of it, but from our point of view, safety is paramount.”

He called on the leaders of the region to implement matters settled or agreed upon in regional meeting.

“Implement and honour the pledges that have been made because one of the risks we have, people come to a regional meeting like this, they say yes we agree but often nothing happens. It’s important that Governments implement the pledges we gave all settled on," he said. 

Dr. Tukuitonga  is attending the fourth Pacific regional energy and transport ministers meeting at the TATTE Building.

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