Govt. firm on Asau port plans

By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 11 July 2024, 3:00PM

The government has no intention of withdrawing the proposal to redevelop the trans-shipment port at Asau in Savai'i.

This was confirmed by the Minister for Works, Transport and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I.), Olo Fiti Va'ai, in response to questions from the Member of Parliament for Vaisigano No.1.

Niuava Eti Malolo asked for an update on the government's proposal to redevelop the port in Asau.

According to Olo, they are still committed to fulfilling their promise.

"The main challenge has been securing funding for that particular project. But we are making efforts to obtain funding so we can proceed with the project," Olo said.

In a previous interview with this newspaper, Olo revealed that the Government's plans for Asau include building a multipurpose port for trans-shipment and serving as a backup for the Matautu international port on Upolu.

He further mentioned that there have been many discussions and proposals in the past regarding the development of a wharf in Asau, but those proposals "did not materialise."

Considering the economic potential of such a project, the Olo said that if the plans come to fruition, it will boost economic development in that part of Savai'i.

"One of the main reasons behind the initiative is to develop this part of the country so the residents and businesses around the area can benefit from it," Olo said. 

"There's no need to say that most of our infrastructural developments are centered here in Apia and we believe that it's about time we decentralised some of these developments out in the rural areas and in Savai'i. 

"We've heard about this plan for Asau so many times before and it was all talk. However, we are serious about this project and we want to go ahead and start working on it once we secure the money for it.

“Access to Asau should attract new investors, big businesses and the potential for investors to lease lands for business developments and tourist accommodation facilities cannot be discounted.

“And it will translate to new jobs and fresh cash injected into the economy, not just Asau but across the board.

“It can also decentralise shipping services to the Big Island that should boost our trading capacities and of course tourism through Cruise Ships.”

Currently, the channel to the Asau wharf is not accessible and poses a high risk for vessels to access it, because it is shallow. However, Olo is optimistic that with the right approach and right people, it can be resolved. 

In 2022, two experts expressed reservations about the plans to redevelop the Asau port. 

The sentiments of retired engineer Michael Anderson and current Principal Planning Consultant Maualaivao Ueligitone Sasagi have a common thread. They both conclude that any plans to reinvest in the Asau port which include attempts to widen and deepen the channel to access the wharf, would cost the current and future Governments a lot of money.

In 2018 former prime minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi confirmed that funding to widen and deepen the Asau channel had been secured. 

In 2020, a spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Samoa, Zhang Muyue confirmed the Human Rights Protection Party-led Administration had requested China to fund the implementation of the plans for Asau. 

Zhang confirmed that the Chinese government was conducting a financial feasibility study on the proposed project.

She added plans were hindered by COVID-19 leading to a delay in finalising the project details at that time. 

By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 11 July 2024, 3:00PM
Samoa Observer

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