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11 October 2017

Iona Firi given a week to destroy impounded boats


THE Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has issued an ultimatum to Iona Firi to destroy the controversial blue boats by this weekend.

The blue boats were impounded early this year and following an High Court ruling, they were destined to be tendered for destruction for bio-security reasons.

The tender was won by Iona Firi, a ship building company in Malaita Province.

But this week the Fisheries Ministry has raised concerns that the contractor had breached its contractual terms by using the boats for transportation from Gela to Honiara and failing to destroy the boats according to the time frame agreed in the contract.

The Solomon Star cited exchanges of emails between Iona Firi Properties Limited representative Wale Tobata and Deputy Director of the Provincial Fisheries Division Bennie Buga.

There are two points which Iona Firi failed to abide by, which is a clear breach of the MOU between them and the Ministry of Fisheries.

The breaches are illegal use of the blue boats from Ngella to Honiara for cargo and passenger transport; and the long overdue destruction of the boats, contrary to the 4 weeks’ time frame, effective as of 18th August 2017 as per the MOU.

Mr Buga also stated that in their meeting last week at the Maritime base attended by the Police, the Director of Maritime, and Fisheries Officials, it was agreed that an ultimatum be issued to Iona Firi.

It was agreed that if Iona Firi wants to destroy the boats, they have only until this weekend to do it and if they do not then government will have to resort to other means of destroying the boats.

 “Failure to do so, means we will shift to Plan B which another company or the state will the destruction process,” the Fisheries officer said.

A statement from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources yesterday said a task force assigned to look into the blue boat issue will convene for a meeting tomorrow.

In the meantime, Iona Firi representative Mr Tobata said they have been in contact with Environment Division to oversee the destruction process, which he added is in line with the MOU and environmental laws.


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