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Importer wants answers to shipping questions

Wednesday 1 April 2009 | Published in National

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Thursday 26: Emails are doing the rounds in search of answers to questions relating to recent shipping problems being experienced by some of the country’s importers.

Importer John Scott has put forward 36 questions to the transport ministry which issues shipping licences. His questions range from the structure of the entities currently running the service to the licence’s terms and conditions. Scott claims that those putting their cargo through Pacific Forum Line (PFL) are being treated unfairly.

“Does government consider that the further expansion of the Reef services to the Cook Islands – through the introduction of Southern Tiare – is a desirable development right now considering the agitation about present services?” asks Scott.

“Would it not be appropriate at this rather strained juncture for government to get behind the Pacific Forum Line and secure competitive services to the Cook Islands rather than give what appears to be tacit support to the expansion and consolidation by Reef [Shipping] of its monopoly on the Cook Islands service?”

During Tuesday’s meeting of mainly PFL importers with shipping minister Tangata Vavia and his associate Winton Pickering, Scott was told that he could find out some of the answers by searching company records, or by getting them from Reef Shipping.

But at the crux of Scott’s concerns is some accountability in the decisions behind which containers make the sailing, and which containers don’t.

With PFL importers expected to meet the company’s new chief executive Sean Bolt in Rarotonga next week, Scott has fired off questions to PFL on Tuesday.

“As you have a guaranteed 35 slots, who at PFL is monitoring that you received your allocation?” he asks.

“Does Reef have the same understanding as yourselves [PFL] that certain cargo travelling is critical and by this I mean stockfeed because I have certainly taken every opportunity to impress this upon everyone including [Reef Shipping’s trade manager] Ewan Grant so there is no-one in the command chain that can plead they were unaware of this requirement? That being the case is it unreasonable then to conclude that someone with more clout than yourselves and Ewan deliberately instructed that these containers be left behind. If that is then too far-fetched for everyone then why did they not get loaded?”

Cabinet will put on hold a decision on Reef Shipping’s offer to operate the ‘Southern Tiare’ on a 12-month schedule from Auckland via Fiji, until after next week’s meeting with Bolt. - Moana Moeka’a