Businesses worry about supplies

A view of Majuro’s Delap Dock, the facility that handles container vessels such as this Matson ship. Local businesses say the 14-day Covid-19 quarantine requirement for ships is delaying arrival of vessels and causing significant losses to local companies. Photo: Tyler Milne.

GIFF JOHNSON

Food supply issues as the Covid-19 coronavirus continues to affect nations of the world are a key concern of large retail and wholesale companies in the Marshall Islands.

K and K Island Pride Supermarket officials pointed to a number of future supply chain worries that they are attempting to grapple with. Already, local companies say they are finding they cannot obtain the usual level of food supplies, such as orders of rice.

At last week’s Chamber of Commerce meeting with the RMI National Disaster Committee, K and K Island Pride General Manager Eli Maravilla said the RMI’s 14-day ship quarantine requirement is adding another challenge to an already challenging picture, with container vessels forced to wait anywhere from a few days to over a week before they can enter Majuro to deliver their cargo.

The quarantine is causing major losses to local businesses that import produce and dairy products that are date-sensitive because it is adding many days on top of an already-extended delivery time from the US west coast, via Guam.

“I don’t understand this protocol,” said Maravilla, adding that there is already the requirement of no contact between the crew and shoreside personnel at the dock, which should satisfy the concern about importation of Covid-19.

Chief Secretary Kino Kabua, who heads the National Disaster Committee, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the NDC “is seriously looking at” the 14-day ship quarantine requirement. “We don’t want the (extra) costs passed onto customers.”
She said the MEL shipping line has already advised the RMI government that the 14-day requirement is costing them a lot of money as their vessels, coming out of Fiji, have been forced to wait up to a week to off-load their goods.
Swire shipping representative Phil Welch told the Journal that shippers are sustaining losses of around $10,000 per day for quarantine time, which will be added to cargo charges.

K and K Financial Consultant John Mason expressed concern about how businesses could meet the RMI government’s interest in providing quantities of food needed for special supply orders for the outer islands. He emphasized the point that orders of large magnitude need long lead times to accomplish, particularly at this time when the local company has found suppliers are having a difficult time filling normal-sized orders to meet needs for Majuro and Ebeye.

Mason said businesses already provided the government with detailed requirements for managing special bulk orders of food stocks for the outer islands but have not been receiving follow up from the government.

Kabua said the DNC would be working on this with the business community going forward.

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