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NUKU‘ALOFA, TONGA (November 14 , 1998 - Tonga Chronicle)---Despite the commissioning of the T$ (pa‘anga) 780,000 Pulotu Wharf at Ha‘afeva last August, the dream of quick, comfortable service by large commercial vessels from that wharf to Nuku‘alofa and Pangai remains a dream for the people of Ha‘afeva and the neighboring islands of Tungua, ‘O‘ua, Kotu, Matuku and Fotuha'a.

All must still depend on a hodgepodge of small craft to transport them and their belongings.

Although the M.V. Olovaha and vessels of the Uata Shipping Line berthed at the wharf in the weeks following the commissioning, they only did so during high tides in daylight hours because of fear of the shallow entrance to the wharf and the lack of navigation lights and buoys were in place to guide them in, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Marine and Ports.

Last month, after the wharf was declared unsafe, even those visits were cancelled.

Meanwhile a Ministry of Works team has been working to deepen the entrance. One worker on the project said that a 30 meter (99 foot) long, 50 meter (165 foot) wide channel was being dug to a low-tide depth of 3.5 meters (11.6 feet). Lights and buoys were also in place by last week.

When the work is completed, vessels the size of the M.V. Olovaha will be able to berth at Pulotu at any time.

Meanwhile, a T$ 89,485.46 boat for the Ministry of Health was handed over at Tu‘imatamoana Wharf on November 6 to Dr. Tilitili Puloka, Acting Minister of Health, by Mr. Jose Ferraris, representative, United Nations Family Planning Association.

The 10 meter, half-cabin craft has both an inboard diesel engine and an auxiliary outboard motor, with cruising speed of 16 knots and top speed of 32 knots. It is part of a four-year reproductive health project, worth some T$ 500,000, being implemented by the Ministry of Health starting this year.

(NOTE: US$ 1 = T$ 1.5779 on November 14, 1998)

For additional reports from The Tonga Chronicle, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Tonga Chronicle.

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