MOI ship is ‘too old’
Marine authorities will not accept MV Sitka on its register even if those who purchase the Tongan registered vessel insisted on bringing it over here.
Derek Saru, chief marine engineer, Compliance and Standards Division of the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety(SIMSA), stated this.
He was responding to announcements Albert Wong of Oceanic Marine Equipment Ltd made that he’s going to Fiji to salvage the vessel, which ran aground on August 21on a reef there, and bring it over.
Wong purchased MV Sitka for Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) constituency using a $5 million grant the constituency secured under the government’s shipping grant.
The ship was on its way from Tonga to the Solomons, when it ran aground on a reef in Fiji due to mechanical problems.
The Tonga crew that was on board have abandoned the ship and are now back in their country.
Saru explained SIMSA refused to accept the vessel on to its register as it is not “fit for purpose” being more than 50 years old.
He said SIMSA has put in place a Domestic Shipping policy restricting aged vessels NOT to be brought into Solomon Islands.
He further explained that Wong or MOI never consulted them about buying and bringing the ship over into our waters.
Saru said initially, it was Dalgo (SI) Ltd that intended to purchase MV Sitka.
However, he said when SIMSA requested important documents of that vessel from Dalgro(SI) Ltd, the company failed to furnish them with the information they requested.
Saru said it was not until two weeks ago that his office received information from Fiji that MV Sitka developed mechanical problem in Fiji waters on her delivery trip to the Solomons.
“That was shocking news to us because it was supposed to be Dalgrowho are on our radar; not Wong of Oceanic Marine Equipment Ltd as stated in the media,” Saru said.
He added that the normal procedure for intended ship owners/ship operators to follow is to consult SIMSA first about what ship they intend to purchase.
“This is to allow our ship surveyors to inspect that ship for quality and safety compliances.
“Our surveyors after inspection would then provide important documents back to the SIMSA Registrar of Ships, including ship's Bill of Sale etc… de-register that vessel from Foreign Registry of that Ship, get Provisional Registry Certificate from SIMSA, comply to international sea voyage manning and follow relevant international shipping standards and then set sail to the Solomons.”
Anything outside of this process, Saru said, would be deemed illegal.
The Sunday Star understands Wong and MOI have gone out of the process to purchase the ill-fated MV Sitka.
Wong earlier told the Solomon Star he has not consulted SIMSA about inspection of the ship because Tongan marine authorities have inspected it before it sailed to the Solomons.
He said the ship has been insured and they are working with their insurer in light of the situation.
Meanwhile, villagers in Fiji wanted the vessel removed from their reef in fear of the large amount of fuel on board the ship leaking and polluting their waters.
The Fiji Times reported the ship currently has 20,000 litres of fuel on board.
By LESLIE SANGA