An enormous salvage operation began yesterday to remove the MV Moana Nui from the Nassau reef, where she has been rusting for the past two-and-a-half years.
Taio Shipping has contracted the landing craft LCT Krishnan, which arrived from Fiji early on Saturday. She was cleared for entry at Pukapuka, before sailing on the 90km to the small island of Nassau.
Josia Taio said the contractor from Fiji would attempt to upright the Moana Nui and lock it to the reef. A team would then climb inside the vessel and pump the water out.
The plan was to hopefully re-float the vessel and tow her out to the ocean, to be sunk.
Taio said the company had been under “overwhelming pressure from many authorities … to remove the long-time eyesore reefed ship”.
His father, company owner and managing director Tapi Taio, finally located the salvage company Pacific Constructors and Dredging (Fiji) Ltd and drafted a contract.
“The rest is now history,” Josia Taio said. “Tapi has invested three-quarters of a million dollars in the removal operation.”
It comes after Taio’s three inter-island cargo ships were detained in Rarotonga, for safety checks after 7-year-old Lapana Tupou went missing on a voyage from Rakahanga.
While the ships were detained, northern group islands ran out of basic supplies including boat and aircraft fuel.
Josia Taio said he had talked to his father in New Zealand, who was happy with the latest positive news.
“All our cargo ships are cleared, crewed and have resumed inter-island operations,” he said, “and all northern group islands will receive much needed supplies courtesy of Taio Shipping and Cook Islands Government subsidy grant.”
By the end of the month, he added, 80 per cent of Taio’s ship crew would have undergone basic safety training, provided by the Fiji Maritime Academy.
“Thank you to the people of the Cook Islands for your patience, to my new captain & his team of Taio Shipping, you have all weathered the storm, we hope for calmer seas ahead.”
Government’s transport director Ngatokorua Ngatokorua earlier said they hoped the wreckage would be “completely removed from the Nassau passage” by the end of November.
The Transport ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with Taio Shipping last month: “Our job as a Ministry is to ensure the boat is removed from the reef, as it’s obstructing the passage,” said Ngatokorua.
Tapi Taio had said the company had $400,000 in a trust that would hopefully cover some of the costs to cut the lodged boat out from the reef. “The shipping game can be a very difficult game and very expensive,” he said. “Shipping is high risk and very difficult.”
Pukapuka/Nassau MP Tingika Elikana thanked those involved in setting up the salvage, noting that nobody can control the weather. There were plans to widen the Nassau passage once wreckage was removed, he said.