By Lance Polu
APIA: THURSDAY 11 OCTOBER 2012: The purchase by the Samoan Government of the Pacific Forum Line for NZ$1.6 million, is a worthwhile investment.
This is according to the Minister of Shipping and Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo. Just back from the Samoa Talks and to criticisms from the Opposition about the sale, Fonotoe says “the purchase of the ongoing concern maintains the vision the regional shipping company was originally established by the eleven island countries that to serve trade and shipping links for widely spread island countries.”
He said the island countries did not have much say in the shipping and freight costs before the line was established. Now that the island countries who have been the shareholders have agreed for Samoa to take over and now Samoa has a major say in the freight and trade links in the region.
The Opposition had criticized the purchase of the financially strapped line saying the money could have been spent elsewhere to help the cost of living in Samoa.
Fonotoe however says the freight and shipping costs makes a lot of difference in the cost of living and it is the public that ultimately pays.
The Pacific Forum Line is registered in Samoa with an office in Auckland and Fonotoe says the company has loans and overdrafts that the Samoan government has taken over.
The line has two container ships that will continue to serve islands trade and shipping services on a two week turn around time. Earlier this year a cartel of shipping companies serving the region had one vessel serving the routes picking up cargo from Fiji as the hub in a move to cut costs. The arrangement prompted complaints from businesses as the four-week turn around time was far too long.
Fonotoe said the Governments decision to purchase the line was based on a study by Thompson and Clarke Consultants. He also said that for Samoa, there are business interests such as the automotive goods manufactured by one major employer, Yazaki EDS Samoa at Vaitele that need regular shipment to Australia. Samoa also has 260 sailors serving various overseas shipping lines that brings in $AT10 million to the country annually. Having its own shipping line will be an additional employment opening for these locally trained seamen.