Eye-sore in the harbour

Fred Wesley | Saturday, January 13, 2018
THE revelation that an overseas company has been awarded the tender to remove the remains of the cargo vessel MV Southern Phoenix from the Suva Harbour will no doubt attract attention.
Fred Wesley
Fred Wesley

The vessel sunk on May 6 last year.

The removal process, according to the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji is expected to last about three months.

The same company is earmarked to carry out the removal of derelict vessels in the harbour. MSAF manager safety, compliance and response Captain Philip Hill confirmed this during a talanoa session with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

The tender, he said, had already been awarded for the MV Southern Phoenix.

The sunken vessel is positioned and located about 10-15 metres away from the south end of the Kings Wharf.

The vessel developed a list to port, and later sank after being moved from the main wharf.

This latest news should be a wake-up call for authorities.

There was no loss of life at the time of the sinking.

There must be no stops to this though.

Derelicts that litter the harbour should be removed.

While there is keen interest on the outcome of investigations into the sinking, it is critical that we put in place measures that will protect our harbour moving to the future. Otherwise we risk becoming a dumping ground for derelict vessels.

Surely there are issues that will be raised by people concerned about the rising number of vessels finding their way to Suva.

We should have expected this given the location of our harbour, availability of appropriate facilities for repair and maintenance work for vessels, resupply of rations, and proximity to fishing grounds in the region. There is also the issue of a safe harbour during the cyclone season.

Given the potential boost to the domestic economy, one might even be forgiven for downplaying the negative impact. The question though is whether this is significant enough to overshadow issues like environmental pollution and those related to border control and safety. As much as we may want to be seen as the hub of the Pacific in terms of sea trade, there are issues that need to be sorted out first, like the cleaning up of the Suva Harbour.

When plans were made to move the capital from Levuka to Suva in 1877, the harbour was a key part of the final decision.

As trade between Fiji and the outside world developed, it was important that a harbour that was safe as well as big enough to accommodate many vessels of differing sizes and shapes was found. It didn't help that ships from around the world also used Fiji to restock supplies at the time.

Over the years though, the beauty of the Suva Harbour has slowly been overtaken by derelict vessels.

They pose a threat to local vessels using the harbour and are major environmental problems apart from being eyesores.

Villagers living by the coast directly opposite the Capital City will feel any negative environmental impact emanating from vessels berthed in the harbour.

Derelict vessels reflect badly on us in terms of how we value our environment and our waterfront.

Boat owners should get the message that we value our marine resources and harbour.

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