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Future of old vessel undecided

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 11, 2009) - An inter-island passenger ferry the MV Princess Ashika is due to arrive in Tonga from Fiji on Friday, June 12 to replace the old MV Olovaha.

The Managing Director of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd., John Jonesse, said MV Princess Ashika is set for its first voyage on Wednesday, June 17 firstly to Ha'apai and back and will continue to be busy in transporting people for the Free Wesleyan Church conference.

MV Princess Ashika was built in Japan and has been operating in Fiji for some years and is in good condition, he said.

Meanwhile, the MV Olovaha continues to operate and recently departed Tongatapu on June 8 on its usual service to the outer islands and should return to the capital next week. No final decision has been made on the future of the 26-year-old vessel.

The inter-island ferry service, a lifeline between the islands of Tonga, has been disrupted during the past few months due to engine problems and services to the outer islands have been either cancelled or delayed.

Government investigated a solution to the ferry service problem and negotiations for a replacement ferry resulted in the new service offered by the MV Princess Ashika.

Meanwhile, a new MV Olovaha for Tonga is to be ready in 2011 thanks to a $35 million in grant aid provided by the Government of Japan for its construction.

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