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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Nov. 24) - Peau Vava'u Airways has suspended its domestic air service indefinitely, Tonga's Minister of Transport, Hon. Paul Karalus, told representatives from the Nuku'alofa Tourism Industry this afternoon.

Paula said that the domestic air service is currently operating solely by the Tongan Airlines, a Fiji Air-Teta Tour joint venture.

The Peau Vava'u Airways Nuku'alofa Office was among business offices that were gutted by fire last Thursday. The disaster left the future of Peau Vava'u Airways uncertain, but the Minister pointed that because it is a quiet time of the year an efficient domestic air service could be restored before the beginning of the Christmas Season, which is one of the busiest times of the year.

[PIR editor’s note: Peau Vava’u Airways, formerly controlled by former Crown Prince Tupouto'a – now King George Tupou V - had a monopoly on domestic air service in Tonga until May of this year, when the government opened the industry to competing air carriers.

Air Fiji has also indicated that it could bring in a bigger aircraft if the need arises.

With regards to the sea transport, he said that the inter-islands ferry service between Tongatapu, Ha'apai and Vava'u is currently being carried out by MV 'Olovaha of the Shipping Co-operation of Polynesia Ltd. He said that the fast ferry boat MV Pulupaki of Walter Shipping owned by the People's Representative, 'Uliti Uata had ceased operating locally.

The shipping service between Tongatapu and 'Eua is still being served by the MV Alaimoana of the Tofa Ramsey Shipping Service, and the service between Tongatapu and the small islands in the Ha'apai group is still being operated by church groups.

Paul said that the international shipping service was already operating normally.

"It is a government priority to ascertain that a supply of essential overseas goods is not disrupted," he said.

Meanwhile, security at the ports, airports fuel and gas depots has been taken over by the Tonga Defence Services to make sure that there will be no disruption to essential public services.

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