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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 20, 2000 - OFO)---Fiji's government-controlled Shipyard Fiji Limited (SFL) is close to finalizing a $US50 million contract with French Polynesian company Ingénierie Marine et Navigation (IMN).

Negotiations between Fiji government officials and IMN General Manager Patrice Baranger took place in the Fiji capital Suva for a deal to construct 3O to 50 fishing boats.

Baranger is now in the French territory to obtain endorsement from his company and finalize the order.

IMN had previously placed orders with SFL for five fishing vessels.

The Fiji government, which is a major shareholder in the company, is currently in the process of taking over and will appoint a new manager for SFL.

Another shareholder in SFL is MCI Carpenters Limited.

Fiji Attorney General Annand Singh claimed Carpenters still owed the Fiji government 1.3 million Fiji dollars (US$ 628,000), not including interest, since 1996.

SFL has since last year been facing serious financial hardships when a credit line it attempted to obtain from its bank to pay its employees was refused.

The company later went into receivership and close to a hundred workers was laid off because they couldn't be paid.

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