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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, July 4) – The proponents of the floating dry dock project said today that while they disagree with the findings of the Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Agency, they accept the decision.

They said that the economic opportunity that the project presents now rests squarely with the Marshall Islands government.

Ching Fu RMI Shipyard Co director, Steve Chen, said that the environmental review process, and significant additional uncertainties associated with land tenure and seabed rights, left the company in a difficult position, according to a press release dated July 4, 2005.

"There’s now a limited window of opportunity for the RMI government to secure this project. Within a matter of about four weeks, we will have no option but to shift our main focus to other locations where governments have expressed an enthusiastic interest in hosting the floating dry dock project. This includes Fiji and Kiribati – the Federated States of Micronesia is also a possibility."

Mr. Chen said that construction of the dry dock was all but complete, and the timeframe for securing a site in the RMI had already gone far longer than planned.

"We are not inclined to invest significant additional resources in locating and negotiating an alternative site in Majuro. We will need to look at other locations, and soon."

"If the government wants to secure this project it has an opportunity to do so if it acts quickly. The challenge is for the RMI government to put together an acceptable package—covering all of the elements required to secure this project, including a suitable site. We have written to the President detailing the elements of an acceptable package."

[PIR editor’s note: The Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Agency last week rejected the application by Taiwan-based Ching Fu Shipyard Co. Ltd to install a floating drydock at Uliga, an island in Majuro Atoll. The agency, which said it would consider an alternate location in the Marshalls, cited environmental concerns and the near proximity of hotels and residences. According to the company’s website, Ching Fu launched a 101-meter floating dry-dock intended to serve as a repair facility in the Marshalls on April 30. Uliga is among the 56 islands that form Majuro Atoll in the Marshalls.]

Chen also said in his response to the action:

"We hope the Marshall Islands does not miss this opportunity. The floating dry dock investment would boost the country’s economy by some 11%, and help enable the RMI to maximise its return from the Pacific fishing and shipping industries. It would also generate 80 desperately needed jobs in Majuro."

"It would be extremely unfortunate for the Marshall Islands economy if this project were lost to another country. It could harm the reputation of the RMI as a destination for private sector investment. At a more personal level, it would be tragic for the families of the 15 Marshallese who we have trained recently in Taiwan, and would have to let go.

Mr. Chen said that the company hoped a workable solution could be found in the very near future, according to the statement provided by Guy Pearse, Senior Consultant, Government Relations of the AEC Group. The Australian firm represents the Ching Fu RMI Shipyard Co.

July 5, 2005

Yokwe Online: www.yokwe.net

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