Having left Rarotonga on Sunday, the Lady Moana was set to reach Penrhyn today and will then travel on to Manihiki, Rakahanga, Pukapuka, Nassau and Palmerston, before returning to Rarotonga on or around September 19.
“We’ve sent it out to complete our final subsidy run, as per contract, and at least that’s done, so now the team can look back at the data and hopefully work something out,” said Taio Shipping director Josh Taio, referring to government’s plans to continue the shipping subsidy next year.
“That’s the final part of our subsidy trips, so after the barge does their final one in October, then these people in charge should have a breakdown of all the logistics I guess. So they can figure out whether there’s enough cargo and whether the subsidy should continue on next year – and whether it continues on with more trips and more money needed or so forth.”
According to a release from the Ministry of Finance & Economic Management (MFEM) in April, the government’s shipping subsidy for 2018 was a trial beginning with the northern group, aimed at improving “the regularity and reliability of shipping services to the pa enua”.
As a condition of the subsidy, MFEM expected that voyage departures would take place “regardless of the load booked on the voyage, to create a situation whereby the advertised dates can be relied upon by individuals, businesses and island governments in the northern group”.
This condition was criticised earlier this year by Taio Shipping owner Tapi Taio however, who said there was no point sailing with almost no cargo.
“Even with the subsidy, it would still cost me a lot of money for fuel,” he told CINews in April. “It’s a joke. If the government wants ships to sail whether or not they have any cargo, they should be paying 100 per cent of the costs, not 40 per cent.”
Josh Taio said this week that after the Lady Moana’s return the company would not be undertaking any more subsidised voyages for the rest of the year, although he believed the government would commit to a regular subsidised shipping service to the northern group next year.
“This was kind of a pilot scheme, so next year they’ll probably have a better idea in terms of planning what’s really needed, and we can get the barge and our company operating on 10 trips a year or something like that.
“I’m not too sure how they’ll work it, but they’ll definitely have something where there’ll be a regular service up north next year, subsidised, and probably the two companies involved.”
Taio said the company had encountered issues with their first subsidised voyage scheduled in April, with the amount of cargo booked being such that two ships were needed to carry it all north, but he said the company’s new ship, the Grinna, would have no such problems.
“She’ll be able to do the whole sector, no problems. She’s got extra room and freezer capacity and all that, once we get it all set up.”
While the Grinna arrived in Rarotonga almost two months ago now, after completing its three-month-long, 12,000-nautical-mile delivery voyage from Denmark on July 14, the 34-metre-long, Norwegian-built vessel has not yet been put into service.
Taio said this was due to new parts being required for the ship after the rigours of such a long voyage.
“We’ve still got some parts coming in from America, just to get her running, but very soon we’ll get her back up and out there,” he said.
“I ordered them about two or three weeks ago, and we weren’t going to get them until the September 13. But now we’ve managed to rustle them up and they’re supposed to send them this week.
“(After that) we should see her (Grinna) going out and doing some testing, and then we’ll slowly have a look at what we’re going to do with her once we’ve got her running.”