I apologise for the lack of updates lately, there has been some complications in Cairns. Here’s the latest update straight form the horse’s mouth, so to speak:
Still stuck in Cairns!
GOOD AND BAD NEWS
The good news is that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and Solomon Island Maritime have agreed to allow us to undertake the delivery voyage from Cairns to Solomon Islands. This then clears our way with Australian Customs to depart Australia.
The bad news is that they have made a number of conditions on our voyage, in particular that we require a “Class 4 Skipper (Master)” on board the vessel. Such a qualified person is difficult to find — Class 4 is a high qualification not normally required for such a vessel or voyage.
This is additional to the added thousands of dollars spent because we’re “marooned” here in Cairns for over a week — not a cheap place to have a boat and crew.
We don’t have these funds. We have again requested assistance from the Australian Government, but if such funds are forthcoming, it would likely be after a clear weather opening for this Monday.
An appeal: if you are able to assist by donating any funds to help this cause, please phone Peter Lynch on 0428 426 520 to discuss.
Why didn’t we plan for this? The answer is simple — we planned and budgeted based on the recommendations of Solomon Maritime some twelve months ago and the advice received from Australian marine authorities for a delivery voyage of a foreign vessel of this type. The SI requirements included training of five Solomon Islanders at the School of Marine in Honiara. However, it would appear the rules have changed under the pressure of Australia, likely through RAMSI’s involvement. A strengthening of safety rules are to be encouraged — so long as they can be enforced in the local environment. We believe our vessel will be a shining example for safety in Solomon Islands. Many of the safety systems and procedures have been developed to provide a sustainable and maintainable safety system. We do not believe an item, such as a liferaft, is a safe option when it is out of date in 6 months and un-serviceable in the local area. Instead we have developed equivalent safety systems which are maintainable in the local context and still meet international safety standards (USL codes).
A comment: We are an private Australian company. We are not a charity or an NGO. We do not attempt to suggest we are a charity or an NGO. We do aim to provide sustainable solutions for helping people in remote rural areas in places such as Solomon Islands. What we do and how we do it appears to be regarded as very unusual — that a private business could be doing something ethical! This is a sad reflection on business in Australia in general.
We are tired and disgusted of being treated as a front for illegal or unethical activity by so many departments inside the Australian Government. Along the way with this project we have had to battle various government departments after being accused of
- “double dipping” in relation to requesting a fuel excise exemption for the export of a vessel;
- Setting up a foreign tax haven
- “wink-wink nod-nod” comments from potential government funding program representatives suggesting our business is a front for illegal activity
- That we must be getting Australian government aid money and we are corrupt by disguising it behind a business front
- That we regard the value of a Solomon Islander’s life less than that of an Australian, and subsequently skimped on safety equipment
- That we are an international scammer
These accusations are totally unjust and cut to the core of what we’re trying to do. I appeal also to the elected politicians of Australia to “come on board” with this project and I appeal to members of the Australian public to contact their local MP and request direct action be taken to assisting Pelena. After all, what we are doing — transportation — was cited by the Australian Government as being a critical infrastructure component for the development of Solomon Islands. The Australian Government’s 2004 report titled “Solomon Islands — Rebuilding an Island Economy” states on page 64 “Without adequate transportation to access health, education and new markets, regional populations will continue to be left out of economic development.” We see many other benefits of our “transportation platform”, and understand we are the only people attempting to directly address this critical infrastructure at the village level.
Your support is required now more than ever!
Many thanks, Peter, Salena, Nixon, Mareta, and Puia
Saturday, November 18, 2006