A NEW fortnightly shipping service to Ulawa, Ugi, Kirakira including Three Sister Islands is starting on 18 August 2015.
A two-year contract for the service has been awarded to Marau Shipping Services Limited.
Funding is being provided jointly by the Solomon Islands Government and the Asian Development Bank.
Moses Virivolomo, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, said the service will operate from Honiara through ports in Ulawa, Ugi, Kirakira on to Three Sister Islands and return.
The first voyage is due to depart Honiara on 18 August.
“This is not a charter system” Mr Virivolomo said.
“Under this subsidy scheme, the ship operator keeps the income from cargo and passenger fares and the Ministry pays a subsidy to cover the difference between voyage income and the costs to operate the voyage,” he added.
The ship operator provides the service under a contract and the operator must meet contract conditions for safety and insurance.
Also, the ship must follow an agreed schedule and must visit the ports laid down by the Ministry.
The operator cannot only call to those ports which make money for the operator.
Mr Virivolomo stated that people need to understand that this is not a free service.
Everyone has to pay their passenger fare and the cargo freight.
“Anyone who tries to travel or load cargo without paying will not be permitted to travel or ship cargo,” he said.
But under the contract the operator can only charge the passenger fares and cargo rates agreed by the Ministry.
The operator cannot increase rates without the Ministry’s approval.
Mr Virivolomo added the purpose of the scheme is to provide a regular shipping service to remote communities that are seldom serviced by ships now.
It will help people get their products like copra, cocoa, marine products and timber to markets in Honiara.
It will also help people to travel to the National Referral Hospital at Honiara.
“Drunks and trouble makers will not be allowed on the ship,” Mr Virivolomo warned.