ANXIOUS MANUA ISLANDERS WAIT FOR FREIGHTER

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REPAIRS
Goods running low on the American Samoa island

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, May 24, 2011) - With the Motor Vessel (MV) Sili once again out of service, some store operators in the Manu'a Island group say that goods and products are running low while they await word from Tutuila as to when the American Samoa Government (ASG) vessel will be back in service - not an unfamiliar woe to the islands that depend so much on surface transportation to deliver items, including gasoline to the Manu'a people.

As of yesterday morning the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unit in American Samoa was still waiting for word from Port Administration on the status of repairs to the MV Sili engine, so a sea trial run can be scheduled.

"We stand ready to assist Port Administration and conduct a sea trial as soon as we get word from Port Administration," said Lt. Trevor Parra with the local Coast Guard office.

Without a vessel, stores in Manu'a are faced with store shelves running very low on food items. A store owner in Ofu says that a lot of goods have been sold and she is faced with a shortage of canned and frozen food items. She says this includes foods for the WIC program that need to be replenished.

"It's almost a month now since the last sail of the vessel to Ofu and if there is still no sail for this week that means many of the usual goods will not be available here," said the business woman, adding that the only other goods available - as of last Friday - were sugar, salt, flour and a few canned foods, but she does not expect these items to last more than a week on the shelves.

This was the same situation for Olosega residents, who say they, too, are faced with limited number of goods available in stores. Another woman said that gasoline is running very low.

On the island of Ta'u, it was a similar situation with empty shelves, and store operators are hopeful that some relief will come soon, especially with graduation approaching and many items needed for the graduation feast.

Some residents are looking at uplifting goods from Tutuila via Inter Island Airways, which will be costly but "we have no choice if there is no MV Sili," said one store operator, noting that this means customers will be charged a higher price to cover the freight.

Ofu and Olosega stores have no choice but to wait for a vessel as there are no commercial flights into the Ofu airport.

Residents are calling for the government to do something soon, to ensure a vessel heading to the Manu'a island group soon. In the past, the government would charter the Samoa government owned vessel MV Fotuosamoa for the Manu'a sail if the MV Sili is down for service.

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