Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he was very pleased with the status of surface transportation operation to the Manu’a Islands following a trip there early this month when he personally sailed there and back on the M.V. Sili. The Congressman made the trip as a general inspection which included observing and assessing wharf facilities, roads and other projects, right at the time when President Bush signed into law legislation which included $1.6 million the Congressman proposed for the renovation of the Ta’u harbor facility, plus and additional $1.4 million for village road improvements in the Manua district.
“I am most happy that surface transportation for Manu’a will be in full operation very soon, with money now available for dredging and renovations to Ta’u Harbor. I want to thank the Director of Port Administration, Fofo Tuitele, for putting out the bids for the dredging of Ofu harbor, which I understand will be implemented soon. Once this and the Ta’u harbor renovations and dredging are all done, Manu’a’s surface transportation should be in full operation,” Faleomavaega said.
“With all the negative publicity the M.V. Sili has been getting, I am happy I personally took the trip to experience the ride. In my opinion, the M.V. Sili fits the need to improve surface transportation for our people in Manu’a. The vessel is sturdy and rides smoothly and carry as many as 150 passengers, and at the same time carry freight and cargo with as many as 20 containers at the same time.”
“Not only can the passengers now travel indoors with cabins available, but protection and shelter are given to cargoes and loads shipped back and forth in containers. These and larger bulked cargoes can be loaded/offloaded by on-board cranes when the M.V. Sili docks like it will soon be at Ofu and Tau as it is now at Faleasao,” the Congressman reiterated.
“As Captain Thompson puts it, the Department of Port Administration takes great pride in the American Bureau of Shipping Certificate of Compliance it maintained in May 2004 for the M.V. Sili. This is an achievement the deparetment preserves with near fanatical attention to preventive mechanical maintenance, constant crew drill and training through United States Coast Guard Certificate of Compliance requirements and regulations,” the Congressman quoted the captain as saying.
“After seeing the M.V. Sili for the first time, a marine industry representative in the recent Department of Interior trade mission group that visited the territory about a month ago pointed out to Captain Thompson that the American Samoa Government was very fortunate to have owned the vessel since its replacement value has jumped to $5 - $7 million after Hurricane Katrina,” Faleomavaega stated. “The M.V. Sili was built in the Louisiana shipyards, and with spare parts, it totaled almost $4 million. When Hurricane Katrina struck last year, all these shipyards were wiped out, and the replacement value of the M.V. Sili almost double.”
“Until recently, the Department of Port Administration has managed to keep the freight and fare rates to Manu’a at the minimum since 2004, despite rising fuel costs. It is only this month that an increase in fares from $20 to $30 one way went into effect. Round trip is now $50. Cargo minimum rates were raised from $1 to $3 per piece, with the maximum of $5 to $10 depending on seize,” Faleomavaega stated.
“Compared to the run by the M.V. Naomi from Pago Pago to Apia, which is roughly the same distance, the one way fare is $60 for seats under the canopy on deck, and $75 in-cabin. Round trip is $80 and $100 respectively. Cargo rates are often times inconsistent, depending largely on size and weight, with pellets running as much as around $108 each.
“I am pleased to note from the records provided by Captain Thompson that the M.V. Sili has been utilized not only for Manu’a, but was kept busy for other voyages. In the past ten months, the vessel logged 40 trips to Manu’a, ferrying 1,200 passengers back and forth for fa’alavelave like funerals, church dedications, flag day celebrations and other functions. The vessel at the same time also shipped and delivered 11,000 long tons of general cargo, vehicles, construction equipment, school lunch supplies, medical, general break bulk freight, building materials, fuel/oil for ASPA, and many more,” Faleomavaega stated.
“Additionally, the M.V. Sili was involved in a medivac mission to Swains once, a salvage operation in Rose Atoll when a fishing vessel got grounded on the reef there, and it towed two disabled fishing boats back to Pago Harbor when they developed engine trouble out in the open ocean. The M.V. Sili was also involved in assisting and towing construction barges for the dredging of Faleasao harbor,” the Congressman reiterated.
“All in all, the M.V. Sili has performed more than it was set up for, given the fact that it still could not dock at Ofu and Ta’u. But I share the pride and joy of the captain and crew, and the optimistic spirit of Port Director Fofo Tuitele, that in a few more months, the M.V. Sili will finally operate on the Manu’a run fully as it was originally planned for.”
“Again, I want to say that the only reason the M.V. Sili could not properly operate in Manu’a because the Ofu and Faleasao harbors were not dredged; and now that dredging of Faleasao has been completed, I believe residents of Ta’u are happy with the services of the vessel. In a couple of months, the Ofu harbor will also be dredged,” Faleomavaega said.
“And again, I want to thank Director Fofo Tuitele, Captain Wally Thompson, the M.V. Sili crew, Port Administration staff for their determination to open up the full operation of surface transportation to Manu’a. Above all, I thank the people of Manu’a for their patience and endurance,” the Congressman concluded.