Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that his efforts to have the MV Sili re-certified by the U.S. Coast Guard have been successful.
“I am pleased that two days after I intervened in this matter, the U.S. Coast Guard has re-certified the MV Sili pending the installation of new doors,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “A copy of the new stability letter has been faxed to my office and I want to thank the shipyard, the naval architect, the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington DC and in American Samoa, and Captain Wally Thompson for working with my office to favorably resolve this issue.”
“Despite reports by Samoa News based on hearsay, rumors and gossip, the truth is the MV Sili was certified by the Coast Guard before it left Louisiana. No corners were cut as it has been alleged. There was simply a discrepancy in the paperwork which involved the bulkheads. There was also an issue involving our hinged doors.”
“While the U.S. Coast Guard informed ASG of these discrepancies on August 13, 2004, ASG did not contact my office for assistance. However, when I learned two weeks ago that the stability letter had been revoked, my office immediately contacted the U.S. Coast Guard in American Samoa as well as the shipyard in Louisiana and two days later the problem involving the bulkheads was favorably resolved,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“A new incline test has been conducted and a new stability letter has been issued and we are now working to change the doors. Hinged doors are allowed for cargo vessels but the MV Sili will also be carrying passengers and as a result the doors need to be changed. It will take about six or eight weeks for the new doors to arrive and be replaced. These doors can be replaced in American Samoa or in Honolulu.”
“However, it is my understanding that ASPA wants the MV Sili to pick up some cargo in Honolulu and bring it back to American Samoa and this is the reason for the trip to Honolulu. The doors could easily be replaced in American Samoa but is the decision of the local government for the MV Sili to set sail to Honolulu.”
“Finally, I would like to add that never in the history of our Territory have the people of Manu’a ever had a ferry as nice as the MV Sili. It is a state of the art, air-conditioned ferry that will provide our people with years of service. It cost $4 million dollars and, at a time when our nation is at war and when our soldiers don’t even have the proper equipment to fight the war in Iraq, I can tell you it is not easy to come by $4 million. This is why it is disappointing to read the constant gossip that there is something fishy about the MV Sili.”
“There is nothing fishy about the MV Sili,” the Congressman said. “There are only minor details left to work out that have come about as a result of converting a cargo ferry to a passenger ferry and there is nothing more to the story than this. The MV Sili will be ready to sail once the doors are changed and again this could have been resolved in August if it had been brought to my attention.”
“For the critics who continue to find fault with everything good that is brought to our Territory, I might also add that our ferry is under warranty and there have been no costs to ASG associated with the purchase of our ferry. I secured $10 million in federal funds through the Tax Act and set aside $4 million for the purchase of a ferry for Manu’a. In other words, this money came from Congress, not from ASG, and there have been no additional costs associated with the new incline test or stability letter.”
“I am hopeful that there will be no additional costs associated with the doors but, if so, we have money left over in our budget to cover replacement costs. Therefore, the only issue remaining before the MV Sili can sail is now in the hands of the local government. It is my understanding that the harbor in Manu’a needs to be dredged and I am hopeful that this will be done in the near future so that the MV Sili can begin to carry passengers between Manu’a and Tutuila and be used for the purpose it was intended,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.