The demand is high and there are not enough ships to get passengers and cargo to the outer islands.
The inability of government shipping to service outer island passenger and cargo demands has been in the spotlight this month, with schools late to start as students and teachers could not get to their schools as the Shipping Corporation is down to just two passenger vessels in service.
The Aemman is completing required dry-docking in Fiji, so only Ribuk Ae and Kwajalein are left as passenger vessels, with the Majuro mainly used for fuel deliveries. The lack of promised government funding to send Langdrik to dry-dock two years ago is blamed for this ship now being unsafe to use for outer island service.
“The demand is high and there are not enough ships to get passengers and cargo to the outer islands,” said Shipping Corporation board Chairman Hirobo Obeketang. “We’re doing our best to get students and teachers back to their islands. The weather was bad (earlier this month) so we couldn’t load at Uliga Dock.” But the quick “in and out” visits to get students and teachers back home present another challenge: copra makers want to sell their product and cannot as the goal of this month’s service is to get passengers to the outer islands, not engage in time consuming copra collection.
The Langdrik’s condition is now so poor that shipping officials are considering purchasing a replacement vessel from Japan. “We were supposed to get money for dry-docking Langdrik two years ago,” said Shipping board member Alson Kelen. But, he said, Cabinet reprogrammed the money for AMI. So what was planned as an estimated $100,000 dry dock cost for Langdrik two years ago has now ballooned to $700,000, leading shipping officials to consider replacing it. Kelen said Langdrik is not safe to use.
Ribuk Ae left Monday for Kaben Meto, and Kwajalein left Wednesday for central islands.
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