Shipping sector to take its fight for support to govt
REPRESENTATIVES of the domestic shipping industry will this week make a formal submission seeking government assistance, warning the industry has hit rock bottom and unless there is support, many may not survive.
A spokesman and General Manager of East Kwaio’s Gulatatae Shipping, Vincent Nomae told Solomon Star yesterday the Government’s COVID-19 Oversight Committee has been “harsh and unfair” in dealing with industry members in its dealings with them.
“There is no fairness in their dealings with us. Some operators do run their ships at ease with little or no compliant requirements at all on them. The same is not true on all of us. As a matter of fact, there are demands on some of us that are totally unfair,” Mr. Nomae, the former Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) economist, said.
Mr. Nomae gave the recent South-east trip of Malaita by the Landing Craft Gulatatae as an example.
“The boat arrived back in Honiara around 10pm but was told to wait until the next day for swabbing. It was around 10am the next day before swabbing started. In any business operations, delays mean extra costs. As operators, we bear the cost, and yet we know of operators who are not treated the same way,” Mr. Nomae said.
“I must make it clear we are not against any or all of the COVID-19 protocols. But the Oversight Committee ought to be fair in applying the requirements.”
The domestic shipping industry, he said, is facing a grim future unless the government steps with financial assistance.
The group, which represents shipping operators from Isabel, East and West Are’Are, Small Malaita and East Kwaio will meet again tomorrow (Thursday) to finalise their formal submission before it is submitted to the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare.
The domestic industry is seeking government assistance in a number of areas, including:
- Funding support;
- Reduction in the various taxes imposed on domestic shipping companies; and
- A request to banks to lower interest rates on their lending to shipping companies.
“On the first point, we are asking the government to set up a rescue fund to help the domestic shipping industry.
“The government must realize that this country cannot survive without shipping. The importance of the service we provide must be recognised in the same way the government recognizes the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development,” Mr. Nomae said.
“It is very, very expensive to run shipping services here. We have to meet maintenance costs, fuel and so on. And given some of the ships we have are old, the cost of maintaining them is crippling to the domestic industry,” he said.
Mr. Nomae said the government ought to change its attitude towards the domestic shipping industry.
“We were ignored during the time of the stimulus package and I must say we can no longer be ignored as we have now hit rock bottom,” Mr. Nomae said.
By Alfred Sasako