THE people of the remote Wards 18 and 19 in the Southern Region of Makira in the Makira Ulawa Province have accused the owners of MV Otega of charging them very high freight charges.
The Makira Ulawa Provincial Assembly Member for Ward 19, Mr Jimmy Hanson Riunga says he has reported the complaints to the Manager of Franchised Shipping Services of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development in Honiara, as the owners of MV Otega have a franchised shipping agreement with them.
He says his people and those from Ward 18 have complained that the MV Otega has been charging very high freights compared to other chartered ships that had previously served the areas.
Mr Riunga says for example, the MV Otega charges $100 freight for an empty 2001tr drum, while the chartered ship, the MV Airi charged only $50 per drum.
And he says the people also complain that while MV Otega charges $100 freight for a bag of cocoa and $50 for a bag of copra, the MV Airi charged $70 freight for a bag of cocoa and $40 for a bag of copra.
Mr Riunga says the remote people of the Weather Coast of Makira also complain that the MV Otega also charges a very high coastal sea fare, sighting it charges $100 to travel from Apurahe Village to Parego Village, a distance of only one point between them.
He says his people have also raised their concern about the MV Otega skipping villages on its return to Honiara and does not check in at every port for back loading, adding his people expect the ship to properly serve the franchised route.
Mr Riunga told the Franchised Shipping Services of MID to remind the owners of MV Otega to improve the services they are providing to “my people because in comparison to the franchised shipping services previously provided by MV Airi and LC Awka, their services are no better than theirs”.
Meanwhile, he says on the part of Makira Ulawa Province, it does appear the MV Otega does not have a Business License to operate in Makira.
Therefore, Mr Riunga says whenever the MID’s Franchised Shipping Services Committee selects shipping companies to serve franchised routes, Provincial Governments should be consulted to ensure they have business licenses to operate, especially Makira Island for that matter.