Bougainville Development NEWS: Opening Aropa airport was Xmas gift for Bougainville’s future

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“It was emotional, it was exciting, thought drenching, brain leavening, quite historical in many respects. After almost 24 years in disuse, a revamped and upgraded Aropa airport was re-opened last Friday 12 December 2014. With its new terminal buildings it is now ready for business. As usual it was marked by celebrations of sorts – political speeches, hand clapping, chanting, lamenting, shouting, smiles and laughter and ecstatic joy all around.

If the thrill and joy of opening Aropa at this time is a Christmas gift, the naming of the aircraft is a spiritual lift for Kieta township and for Bougainville. It’s great, it is the stuff that marks and makes history that is worth remembering.”

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From Simon Pentanu who was on the first flight into the upgraded airport

I am thankful for the opportunity get on the inaugural flight to be among wiser and much stronger and more power-wielding politicians and bureaucrats on the historic flight. There was no way I was going to miss this for the world. I wanted to return home and land on the same turf where I took the second last flight out and away to Port Moresby 24 years ago. And going back a little earlier in history the old Aropa airstrip is also where I took my first flight on a TAA DC-3 in 1965 to begin high school on Buka Island. I cannot forget, the old work horse was the fastest thrill I ever had then with a landing on the way at the Wakunai grass strip before arriving on Buka Island.

The inaugural flight F400 PX4354 flew direct Port Moresby – Aropa. We arrived on the west coast and made our way over the Crown Prince Range to the other side above Loloho and took a slow flight path southwards along the coast above Arawa, Kieta, over Pokpok Island and then made the landing approach from the Koromira end in south touching down at 10.39am on the newly paved new-look Aropa Aerodrome.

The opening of Aropa means Bougainville is probably the only Province/Region with two aerodromes, one in Buka and now in Kieta (Aropa). As part of the reopening and renewing ceremony the F400 Dash was named Kieta. This once thriving township name now becomes a very recognizable part of the aircraft’s livery on one of Air Niugini’s domestic fleet. If the thrill and joy of opening Aropa at this time is a Christmas gift, the naming of the aircraft is a spiritual lift for Kieta township and for Bougainville. It’s great, it is the stuff that marks and makes history that is worth remembering.

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The name is conspicuously poised providing a respectful distance between the Prime Minister and the President who both unveiled and named the aircraft.

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Part of the excited but orderly crowd that welcomed the inaugural flight and witnessed the naming of the aircraft after their township.

If the naming required baptismal or christening rites as part of the ceremony, The President, a former priest adequately fulfilled both the purpose and occasion for this. If the naming and ceremony needed any political validation, the Prime of PNG and who is also the Prime Minister of Bougainville fittingly occasioned this purpose.

As you might imagine I am – and I would think many Bougainvilleans would be too –  still over the moon that a long last Aropa is open for business. Landing at Aropa means it will take me less than an hour to get to the village as opposed to three and a half to 4 hours drive from Buka to Kieta. I can prepare lunch in Port Moresby and eat it in my house on Pokpok Island whilst it is still warm. Or, I can bring the famed local dish tamatama within a few hours of being prepared in the village on the flight back to Port Moresby to share with family and friends in the city while the pudding is still warm.

So there, another Day in the life, trials and tribulations of a Paradise that lost its head, its charm and its way as a promising place with so much to offer. But never mind. The past is gone, the future is yet to come. The moment to live and savour is now. It is time to make the most of it.

Commercial flights will begin in the coming days or weeks. May be Air Niugini can make the two routes to Aropa and Buka quite profitable in the country if it offers no-frills travel and targets volume  and bums on seats at affordable fares that’ll allow more people to travel.

Flying over this enchanted Island is truly a sight to behold. Landing back at Aropa after 24 years was redeeming. Seeing the multitudes that converged to celebrate and adorn the opening was reassuring.

WE  praise God.

 

 

 

Bougainville Development Good News: KIETA/AROPA airport set to open

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AROPA AIRPORT SET TO OPEN ON DECEMBER 12 2014.

Update: With first commercial flights due on December 26

The Phase 1 of the Aropa Airport redevelopment project is nearing its completion as final touches are being put on the terminal , the runway and also general clearing of the airport surroundings.

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The Runway has been sealed all the way from the Southern end of the airport to the Northern end. The Contractor (Dekenai) was still doing some rolling this week near end of the runway. Sweeping of the loose aggregates will be completed by this week.

The Runway markings are yet to be done and this will be done after sealing of both taxiway and tarmac area. The runway edges have been cleaned up so well is giving clearly visibility from both sides of the airport.

The old tarmac has been swept and ready to be sealed. Until the sealing is done, markings will wait until completion of sealing and associated works. Drainage works have been completed with former small island within Tarmac being filled by Contractor and will be sealed along with the whole tarmac. It is anticipated that the sealing of both taxiway and tarmac to be completed by end of this week, weather permitting.

The terminal is 95% complete with minor tidying up to do especially VIP lounge within the Arrival Hall. The Departure Lounge is ready for use by Airlines using 3 check in counters. Two Standby Powers Generators are already installed and in place, ready for official opening.

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The Terminal Carpark is bieng tidied up and will be completed by end of November. The Public Toilet for Male/Female has been complete and ready for use at end of Terminal Carpark. The Airport Safety Officers( ASO) residence plus the combination of Tractor Shed/workshop is ready for use. A Tractor (New Holland) with slasher attached is already in place.

Last week a team from NAC and a team from CASA PNG were in Aropa as part of the Certification Process. They were in Bougainville to check and ensure basic and minimum safety requirements are being considered during construction, to check and see how far the Project has progressed and or how long more before official date (Tentative Friday 12th December 2014) and also to check on Operational Requirements immediately after the Construction (Personnel, Security etc.)

The Organising Committee( NAC/ABG) for the opening ceremony , have already put plans in place and will further consult frequently to make the day a historic and memorable day for the whole of Bougainville.

For  Bougainville Tourism information : Government Website

For Bougainville Tour Bookings Bougainville Experience Tours

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Bougainville Development News: Arrival of MV Chebu sees Bougainvilleans united to embrace development in region

President Momis, Fabian and Sir Henry Chow carried from wharf to main stage at Bridge

“Our unity is what makes us strong and this same spirit can makes us realize our aspirations and reach our ultimate destination, So I believe that if we can work together and address the issue of self-determination in the same manner we will achieve that which we so crave,”

President Momis speaking at the welcome about the importance of ventures like MV Chebu to the people on Bougainville

Buka Town came to a standstill as the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville gave the MV Chebu a rousing welcome amidst much fanfare and celebration as the vessel steamed into Buka Wharf on Tuesday.

Story by Anthony Kaybing/photograph’s were taken by Simon Jaintong

Bougainvilleans braved the sweltering heat of the humid day which eventually turned into a tumultuous storm to bear witness to a historic event, the arrival of a vessel suitably defined to cater for their maritime needs.

Chebu Steaming into Buka

It was also a an emotionally charged affair for those who remembered the ill-fated Rabual Queen which sank off the Morobean Coast on the 2nd of February 2012 and resulted in the loss of over two hundred Bougainvillean lives along with many Papua New Guineans.

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But the many who flocked to the wharf to welcome MV Chebu into Bougainville shores shared a feeling of hope and optimism to see the evidence of Bougainville’s rise from the ashes and its journey into progress and development after suffering from the bloodiest conflict in the South Pacific second only to World War II.

It was a time when Bougainvilleans with a mutual feeling of heartiness and pride took ownership of a new development and feverishly swarmed into the wharf to take a look at the new vessel.

On hand to welcome the MV Chebu’s maiden voyage into Bougainville were leaders from the Autonomous Bougainville Government including President Chief Dr John Momis and several of the members and ministers of the Bougainville House of Representatives and senior bureaucrats with chiefs from the clans in the North Bougainville area.

forefront Lady Collette Chow, Lady Elizabeth Momis, President John Momis and Sir Henry Chow

Local PNG businessman and philanthropist Sir Henry Chow who is involved with the ABG in the joint venture that has seen the formation of the Chebu Shipping Company, was also present to witness the event.

Sir Henry and his son Fabian were initiated into Nakas and Amara clans respectively as chieftains of these clans as a sign of respect and gratitude by the people of Bougainville.

An emotional Sir Henry said he was happy and proud to see the support Bougainvilleans have shown in welcoming MV Chebu into Bougainville and him and his son the honor to being initiated as chiefs.

“Bougainville has always been a significant place in my family’s history, and I am certainly not new to place,” said the knight.

The Chow family has had a long history with Bougainville spanning three quarters of a century with members of Sir Henry’s family owning property and businesses in Bougainville.

Just prior to the Bougainville Crises the Chow Family had numerous vessels operating in Bougainville, losing one as a result of the conflict.

Despite the losses suffered by the Chow Family during the Crises they continued to help in whatever way they could over the years.

Their help would continue on till the ill-fated Rabaul Queen disaster that cost more than 300 hundred lives, most of whom were students travelling back to their respective schools to begin the academic year.

Sir Henry said the idea to enter into a joint venture with the ABG and the Chow Family business arm Hakau Investments came about after the Rabaul Queen disaster in early 2012 when ABG President Chief Dr John Momis discussed the need for safe and efficient vessels to provide for the people along the New Guinea Islands maritime route.

During the disaster Sir Henry Chow was the first respondent to help the ABG organize food, shelter as well as providing funds for the survivors.

It was also during the disaster that initial discussions over the joint venture started and blossomed over the next three years and saw the creation of the Chebu Shipping Company which will now manage the joint venture between the ABG and Hakau Investment.

Over the next three years the vessel’s design was done be according to specifications that would meet the maritime needs of the New Guinea Islands and for two years MV Chebu was being constructed at the Shunhai Ship Building Company Shipyard in China.

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The vessel has been christened MV Chebu in homage to the iconic Chebu stone near Sohano Island and old folklore suggest it was responsible for creating the Buka Passage.

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ABG President Chief Dr John Momis Paid tribute to those who worked hard to seeing the joint venture a reality and he especially thanked the Chow Family for their willingness to invest in Bougainville.

Dr Momis also expressed his happiness in seeing Bougainvilleans united to embrace development in the region

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“Our unity is what makes us strong and this same spirit can makes us realize our aspirations and reach our ultimate destination,” the President said.

“So I believe that if we can work together and address the issue of self-determination in the same manner we will achieve that which we so crave,” he said.

“Self-determination is rejecting, corruption, self-determination is rejecting violence and the negative aspects of life that cause disunity and instability,” President Momis.

The President’s remarks urged Bougainvilleans to use their intellect and will to work in union to enable Bougainville to realize its political self-determination.

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The President expressed his gratitude to the Chow family for their endeavoring efforts in seeing the vessel through its completion a month and for having the faith to reinvest in Bougainville after the Bougainville Crises.

MV Chebu left Bougainville on its first commercial run taking Team Bougainville athletes to Lae for the PNG Games on Wednesday 12th November 2014.

The vessel has a total capacity of 370 passengers that includes 22 passengers, a top speed of 12 knots and a gross tonnage of 1152 tonnes.

 

Bougainville Tourism News : Does Bougainville have a 5 year tourism plan ?

 

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Above: Bougainville’s  tourism future ( 2015-2019 ) was recently represented for the first time at an International Tourism Expo in  Port Moresby (September 2014) by Zhon Bosco from Bougainville Experience Tours (website ) and his international support team Colin Cowell, Simon Pentanu and James Tanis.

But does Bougainville have a plan to take advantage of the South Pacific tourism  opportunities that may occur over the next 5 years ?

In this report from Radio New Zealand opportunities are explored that will effect Bougainville ?

The South Pacific Tourism Organisation is seeking donor and development partnerships to help it implement a five year regional tourism strategy.

Download the strategy and more information

The plan which was approved at the Pacific Tourism Ministers Council meeting last week in Nuku’alofa aims to guide the promotion and development of the industry in the 16 member countries of the SPTO.

Its Chief Executive, Ilisoni Vuidreketi, spoke with Koroi Hawkins about the contents of the new strategy.

ILISONI VUIDREKETI:  We are looking at how we can improve air access and route development, another issue is the cruise ship sector development and we are looking at also, how we can strengthen our marketing program to create more of that Pacific Island visibility in the long haul markets. The other areas that we have looked at is investment in Tourism and product development, research and statistics and of course sustainable tourism planning.

KOROI HAWKINS: In terms of the Cruise Shipping in the Pacific, why is this emerging now? What are the trends that we are seeing?

IV: Yea, we are seeing at the global level, the number of ships that are coming out of the docks, new ships, new cruise vessels, its increasing every year and the ships are getting bigger and bigger. We have cruise liners coming into the Pacific that carry up to 2,000 passengers or 500, 300 for the smaller vessels. No we are looking at ships that are having capacity of up to 4,000 passengers. Now that is certainly something that we cannot accommodate here in the Pacific. But we are looking at the redeployment of the middle sized ships to the other parts of the world and also the trend that we have seen for cruise liners to be looking for new destinations.

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Cruise ship of Pok Pok Island recently

KH: In terms of funding the Pacific Tourism Strategy, where is the money coming from and how much is it?

IV: Sorry I don’t have that figure right now with me. But the programme sets out it is very clear we will certainly be needing the support of development partners. And so the funding that we are looking for is firstly from the contribution of our member governments, which is quite limited when we come to think about this, this big plans for the Pacific. So we are looking at other development partners. That is why we spoke with New Zealand as one of the best options. Also we will be looking at other countries like, perhaps Australia, China and others who may want to be part of this. We are also looking at other donor agencies like the European Union to also pitch in. So it is a collective effort with those, key stakeholders that we have identified.

Bougainville Cultural Tourism News: Buin’s Tuiruma cultural festival ends on a high

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By Aloysius Laukai

Additional photos Bougainville Travel

The first ever three-days TUIRUMA FESTIVAL ENDS IN HIGH NOTEthat was held last week in Buin ended in high note with participants and the public wanting a permanent date set to attract more local and overseas tourists to visit the show in future.

The show was officially closed by the ABG member for BABA, WILLIAM SILAMAI who called on all participants and the people of Buin to maintain the good example they set during the festival to show unity of all Bougainvilleans.

MR. SILAMAI said that the smiles in all the participants faces only indicate one thing that is all were happy to be part of the three- days show.

MR. SILAMAI said that as declared by the co sponsor and member for South Bougainville, STEVEN KAMMA PIRIKA to rotate the venue they would prepare for the next show to be held in Siwai in 2015 and BANA in 2016.

The Show has 44 cultural groups, Arts, Crafts and carvers who were also excited to be part of the first TUIRUMA Festival.

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In his opening remarks the ABG President, Chief DR. JOHN MOMIS said that cultural festivals is one sure way of uniting the people of Bougainville and his government will continue to support them in the future.

The Member for South Bougainville, STEVEN KAMMA PIRIKA also pledged ONE MILLION KINA in the next five years.

The Regional member for Bougainville, JOE LERA also contributed funds towards the staging of the TUIRUMA Festival and said that he was also committed to fund the Tuiruma festival and other festivals throughout the region.

Meanwhile, New Dawn FM managed to talked to several people regarding the three-days Tuiruma festival.

Police Commander for South Bougainville, Commander JOHN POPUI praised the people for maintaining peace throughout the festival.

He told New Dawn FM in Buin that 46 police personnel were engaged to look after the festival with the support of the South Bougainville Veterans Association.

One church worker said that the festival made it possible for their group to meet many people and a Businessman said that he had made extra monies during the festival.

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For International visitors you can book your 2015 Bougainville Festival Tour here

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Bougainville News: Six tonnes of unexploded munitions cleared from a World War II Bougainville battle site

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Australian soldiers have cleared more than six tonnes of unexploded hand grenades and mortars from a World War II battle site on the island of Bougainville, east of Papua New Guinea.

Watch the Australian Department of Defence VIDEO Here

The huge haul of munitions came in just the first week of Operation Render Safe 2014.

Report from Liam Cochrane ABC network Australia

Photo from the Australian High Commission  PNG

The Australian-led international mission is clearing potentially deadly munitions from the villages and food gardens around Torokina, on the west coast of Bougainville.

The Australian Army said the sheer amount of rusty old munitions surprised even seasoned explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts.

“They are mostly two-inch-high explosive mortars and hand grenades, in varying conditions, left in place after the war,” EOD operator Warrant Officer Class Two David Austin said.

An Allied air base was built at Torokina by the US in 1943 and was the launching place for Australian ground attacks against the Japanese in 1944-1945.

More than 500 Australians died and 1,500 were injured in the Bougainville campaign.

Seventy years later, the Australian army has returned to clean up the deadly remnants of war.

More than 500 Australian military personnel are involved in Operation Render Safe 2014, with support from HMAS Choules, an MRH90 helicopter, landing craft and amphibious vehicles.

With little infrastructure at Torokina, soldiers have landed vehicles on the beach and trekked into the jungle to look for unexploded ordinance.

Despite five months of awareness-building activities, there were criticisms of the munitions clearance by some former combatants in the more recent conflict on Bougainville.

Australia’s role on Bougainville is still a sensitive issue due to the civil war in the 1990s, sparked by disputes over the Panguna mine, operated by Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited.

“Former combatants have said that this operation is a breach of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, but I had explained to them that the operation… enhances the peace that the people of Torokina want,” said Patrick Nisira, vice-president of the autonomous government of Bougainville.

Local police help soldiers locate storage pits

Australian army personnel said the reception on the ground had been friendly.

“The people of Bougainville have been most welcoming and we have been working very closely with them to identify explosive remnants of war which pose a threat to local communities,” operation commander Captain Jay Bannister said.

Members of the Bougainville Police Service and locals have helped soldiers locate the munitions storage pits, with assistance from explosives experts from the US, UK, Canada, News Zealand and Solomon Islands.

“As well as helping the community, this is a great training opportunity for the younger EOD guys,” Mr Austin said.

“For the past 10 years we have been focused on the Middle East region but this gets us back to the grass roots fundamentals of our job.”

The mortars and hand grenades were stacked in pits and destroyed by a controlled blast.

Operation Render Safe 2014 will end on 8 November.

Previous Operation Render Safe missions have removed unexploded ordnance from Solomon Islands and Rabaul in Papua New Guinea.

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Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville News: Torokina Community have welcomed Operation Render Safe

Delegation Welcomed in Torokina

 

The Torokina Community in South Bougainville have welcomed Operation Render Safe into their area and see it as a positive step toward development.

Apart from reservations raised by ex-combatants and some leaders the Torokina people when welcoming the dignitaries from the representative nations taking part in the operation expressed their gratitude to them.

On hand were the National Member for South Bougainville and Minister for Bougainville Affairs as well as the ABG President Chief Dr John Momis.

President Momis said that the help from the Australian Government as well as the other nations participating in the operation will create a conducive atmosphere for the people and the government to embark on new socio economic development.

Delegation aboard HMSA Choules

“I would also like to thank the leaders and people of Torokina for accepting the development into their communities and to allow this operation to create safer communities in the District.

“With the ABG’s aspirations to create a democratic government which is our primary objective, we also have to provide services for our people, with this being said services are not an easy task,” the President said.

President Momis said that despite the incapacities of Bougainville’s internal revenue the government is still committed to providing basic services to the people of Bougainville/

The President added that Operation Render Safe will pave the way forward for development in the area.

The President’s sentiments were shared by Minister for Bougainville Affairs Steven Pirika who stated that for too long the people of Torokina suffered from the remnants of war left behind by the allied forces.

UK soldier demonstrates to President, High Com Deborah Stokes & Torokina MP Steven Suako

Minister Pirika said that move by the governments of the allied forces to remove the unexploded ordnances in the area is a sure sign of development and partnership between all the stakeholders involved in the operation.

Operation Render Safe is currently underway and involves military personal from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and police from the Solomon Islands.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams from the taskforce nations have uncovered over 3000 landmines and bombs from WWII.

The EOD teams will be stationed along in Torokina for the duration of the operation and try to cover as much land area as possible.

 

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville Tourism News: New Aropa airport to boost Bougainville Tourism to the world

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The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister ,Peter O’Neill,  will open the Arupa international airport in Bougainville in December.

Regional events and protocol officer of Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), Joe Maineke confirmed this to the Solomon Star last Friday at Madang airport.

See Solomon Star report here October 22

He said the establishment of the airport will boost the tourism industry in Bougainville particularly, access flights to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

It would create employment opportunities, improve standard of living and boost the national economy.

Maineke said once the airport is open there will be a connection flights for PNG, Solomon Islands and Australia.

“Our government has redirect its economic focus to tourism for locals to engage in,  because of mining industry continues to deplete”

“Potential tourism sites in Bougainville are the war relics and their cultural dances and traditions. Our tourism division is working in partnership with our government to build the tourism hub at Buin.

“Increasing of tourists and international visitors coming to the Island is a clear manifestation for us to improve our infrastructure development in the years to come.

“The airport is a major infrastructure achievement of ABG with its people to propel developments in Bougainville.”

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Maineke confirmed that a Solomon Islands government delegation will also be part of the opening.

Picture below Bougainville Experience Tours blue team Zhon Bosco, Colin Cowell, Simon Pentanu and James Tanis in Port Moresby recently promoting tourism to international tour operators: www.bougtours.com

 

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Bougainville Cultural News: Mona Cultural Festival in Buka hailed as success : great images

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Story and photos by Aloysius Laukai ; additional photos Paul Wagam and Brian Semoso

The three-days Mona festival was hailed a success despite government funding allocation not released on time.

This was the message echoed by the Chairlady of the Festival Committee, FRANCESCA SEMOSO at the close of the festival yesterday afternoon.

Ms Semoso said that despite these hiccups the three-days festival was incident free and safe and was enjoyed by all who attended.

She said thanked the local sponsors who donated in cash and kind to make the festival a success.

Mrs Semoso said that show casing one’s culture was good as it identifies the uniqueness of different groups.

Meanwhile, one of the famous Bougainville actors and co-actor in the Tukana film with Francesca Semoso, MR. ALBERT TORO who was one for the festival  organizers, said that he was happy to see all the different people participate at the festival.

He said Bougainville had both the Melanesians and the Polynesians and it was good to see them participate as true Bougainvilleans.

The three-days festival was officially closed by the ABG Minister for culture, Mechior Dare.

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You can book tours to Bougainville

 

 

Bougainville News :Bougainville Government purchases another vessel to service outer islands and coastline

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MV Rapois Chief

Anthony Kaybing

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has embarked on the purchase of another vessel to service Bougainville’s outer islands and it’s the coastline of the mainland and Buka Island.

Christened Rapois Chief, the vessel which is being refurbished in the Philippines will carry about 53 passengers with a crew of 7 and cargo and is expected to be completed in the coming months.

Much of the vessel’s interior and equipment has not been completed yet but more importantly, its two brand new engines have already been set with the propellers and the steering and gear compartment which are also new to be fitted soon.

The vessel also has a sturdy hull made of steel which are designed to withstand the rough Bougainvillea seas.

President of the Marala Vitas Central Terminal and Shipyards Corporation in Mania, Randolph Tiangco says once the engineering aspect of the ship is completed they will proceed with the interior design and painting of the vessel.

“The vessel is virtually a new one as we’re replacing almost every bit of it to with brand new parts and redesigning it to cater for the needs of the people of Bougainville,” Mr Tiangco said

Mr. Tiangco explained that work on the vessel might seem slow as his company is working meticulously to meet PNG’s National Maritime Safety Authority standards and to guarantee MV Rapois Chief its sea worthiness.

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A Bougainville delegation led by ABG President Chief Dr John Momis who was accompanied by Minister Assisting the President, Thomas Kereri and ABG Member for Haku James Beani was also on hand to inspect the vessel on Tuesday.

The delegation expressed their satisfaction at the workmanship of the Marala Corporation and was excited at the new development which will greatly service the people of the atolls and coastal Bougainville especially west coast Bougainville which are inaccessible by road

President Momis said the coastal people of Bougainville especially those in the west coast and the atolls will now have a safer means of travel and to move their goods especially cash crops.

The President said the MV Rapois Chief will be the second ABG owned vessel purchased by his government that will service Bougainville waters and parts of Papua New Guinea.

The first vessel, MV Chebu which is a brand new ship, is near completion and will set sail for Bougainville soon.

 

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