Solomon Islands government reclaims blue boats

The Solomon Islands Government has reclaimed three impounded Vietnamese Blue Boats after Iona Firi Property Limited failed to meet the requirement of an agreement for the destruction process.

Fisheries Acting Permanent Secretary Feral Lasi confirmed to the Solomon Star on Wednesday the blue boats are now under government custody.

“….yes the boats are now taken back from Iona Firi after they failed to meet the requirements in the MoU,” Lasi said.

“State will now decide for its destruction site,” he added.

He further revealed that since last week, they consulted Taroniara shipyard group for their possible rate to dispose off the boats.

“Quote provided by Taroniara shipyard group stands at $1.2 million(US$154,000) for the whole destruction exercise.”

But Lasi said the cost irks the government.

“The biggest issue for us is the cost, so we have to consider other alternative options which will cost less than the one offered.

“It is seizing of engines that will cost the government resulting in a deficit when additional contract works are totaled such as the cleaning of the hull per the environment regulation for disposal.

“So next option is to destroy the whole boat structure and we are yet to decide on that,” he said.

The Acting Fisheries PS said there are other options, which currently they are working on to see the possible outcome.

“We are talking with Taroniara group to see if they agree to clean only the boats’ hull by removing the oils and environmental harm materials and the state will conduct the destruction exercise in the open seas- 12 nautical miles offshore.

"Another option is to negotiate with interested landlords around Gela islands to allow the boats to be sunk in their reefs to allow aquatic grounds for marine animals,” Masi said.

In earlier reports, there are two points which Iona Firi failed to abide which is a clear breach of the MOU.

- Illegal use of the blue boats from Gela to Honiara for cargo and passenger transport.

-The long overdue destruction of the boats which is contrary to the four-week time frame, effective as of 18th August 2017 as per the MOU.

Iona Firi Property Limited representative Wale Tobata also made it clear that they received protest from Langa Langa people back home opposing the Blue Boats’ destruction in the lagoon due to environmental concerns.