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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 2) – A 25 per cent increase in Nuku'alofa's port tariffs due to start on April 1 has been deferred until July 1 by the Nuku'alofa Port Authority.

The change of heart came about following a meeting between representatives of the Tonga Port Agents Stevedores and Shipowners Association and Hon. Dr Feleti Sevele, the Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries.

The Association believed that increased tariffs would impact directly on the consumer prices, and may cause cruise ships to reconsider calling into Tonga.

Peter. Corbett, the Secretary of the Stevedores and Ship-owners Association, pointed out that a 25 per cent increase in the cruise vessel tariff would mean an increase from $2,000 to $5,000 per vessel and could cause cruise lines to reconsider the economic viability of calling into Tonga.

In a letter of April 21 to Lupeti Vi, the General Manager of the Ports Authority, he asked them to reconsider the tariff increase, because "the impact that this increase will eventually have on freight rates and consumer pricing, as in due course these increases will inevitably be passed on to the consumer through increased freight rates."

Peter said the Association would like the proposed increase to be deferred indefinitely.

The announcement of the 25 percent rise in ports tariff had come only a day before the government launched a 15 percent Consumption Tax, which came into effect on April 1.

May 2, 2005

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