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By Len Garae

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 3) – Vanuatu Prime Minister Ham Lini and Chinese Ambassador Bao Shusheng signed an agreement at the Prime Minister's Office yesterday morning formalizing an agreement for the Peoples Republic of China to build two ships for the country.

The agreement, to be funded by an existing 1 billion vatu (US$9.4 million) grant from the Chinese government, follows a request originally made by former Prime Ministers Edward Natapei and Serge Vohor.

"What we have witnessed now is a formalization of that process which is very important because this is what the Chinese Government have been waiting for from Vanuatu," First PA to the Prime Minister's Office, George Bogiri explained.

With the document now signed, Bogiri said the two ships, approximately 34 meters long, would take about ten months to build.

Asked how they will be used, the Bogiri said they are Government ships such as the Alize II and will be used for both passenger and cargo to enhance service delivery to the communities in the islands.

However, the exact details are being worked out among the Department of Cooperatives and ni Vanuatu Business and other relevant Ministries.

Funding for the vessels comes from the 1 billion vatu (US$9.4 million) already allocated to the Vanuatu Government by the Chinese Government.

Bogiri said a special committee has been set up to complete "prioritizing government projects" by the end of the week for funding with the balance of the allocation.

He stressed the importance to understand that the Peoples Republic of China cannot consider any further requests from Vanuatu until the 1 billion vatu allocation is used up.

China is famous for its ship building industry and is not a new partner as far as shipping is concerned.

Ifira Shipping purchased the pride of Ifira, MV Sarafenua from China.

The MV Sarafenua is playing a vital role servicing the Northern Provinces of Malampa, Penama and Sanma.

January 5, 2005

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