Samoa Government To Sell 50% Interest In Pacific Forum Line

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Shipping Co. shares sold to American firm with interests in Fiji Water

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Sept. 12, 2013) – The Government is selling fifty percent of Pacific Forum Line (PFL), the shipping company it bought less than a year ago for NZ$1.6million (T$2.7m).

Based in Los Angeles, California, Neptune Pacific Line, owned by an American company with interests in Fiji Water, has agreed to purchase 50 percent of the PFL from the government of Samoa.

Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of PFL, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo announced the decision during a media conference yesterday.

He did not say how much the shares are being sold for except to confirm that an agreement will be officially signed later this month, on 30 September 2013.

Neptune Pacific Line is part of Roll Global, a $3 billion international company. Its other companies include Fiji Water, Paramount Farms, Paramount Citrus, Teleflora, POM Wonderful and Suterra.

The Chairman of PFL defended claims that the government should’ve kept more than half of PFL.

"Any company that goes into partnership with others always wants to have more (share) than that company," explained Fonotoe.

"But we feel that this model of fifty percent each works better unlike Polynesian and Virgin airlines that have several partners."

There were five other companies that had shown interest in purchasing shares with PFL but Fonotoe said Neptune was the company recommended by the committee.

"The agreement means that PFL and Neptune will provide services to twelve forum countries except Tuvalu, Niue and Marshall Islands," said Fonotoe.

"PFL can only service the Niue and Marshall Islands through port arrangements because they have their own exclusive license with other companies.

"The government believes that Neptune is the best company to go into partnership with since they also venture with other Asian countries and those in the Pacific."

[PIR editor’s note: According to the Samoa Observer the Director of Pacific Forum Line has denied claims by the Samoa Opposition that the shipping company is in financial trouble.]

According to a press release from PFL, Managing Director of Neptune Rolf Rasmussen said "our ability to offer unrivalled global and regional scope, specialising in the South Pacific Islands to our customers and our international connecting carrier partners means when you think South Pacific Islands, you need to think no further than Neptune Pacific Line and PFL".

"All of our assets, every ship, every container, every person, every minute of every day is totally dedicated to this specialised shipping zone," said Rasmussen.

"Through our own network of shipping services, agencies, stevedoring operations and depots, as well as our far reaching global partnerships, we will offer the fastest and most comprehensive network to and from Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific Islands, Intra-Pacific Islands, North and South East Asia, India Sub Continent, Middle East Gulf, North and South America and as well as Europe."

Meanwhile Fonotoe said the company has six vessels that journey through the Pacific.

He pointed out that the partnership with Neptune will improve PFL’s service to the country, other Pacific islands and also availability of work for local sailors.

"With the partnership with Neptune we no longer have to wait for a month until a vessel arrives to our country, which is a problem for our import and export trade," said Fonotoe.

"It is also an opportunity for Samoa to voice our concerns in the circle of shipping companies through PFL about the cost of fees."

Currently PFL only has one vessel, the Forum Samoa II, that is chartered between Australia and China with 12 sailors from Samoa working onboard, he added.

PFL was founded by 12 Forum countries in 1978 and has been a beacon of regional trade and development in the Pacific Islands for over 35 years.

The government made a bold move acquiring 100 percent of PFL shares in October 2012 to secure a sustainable shipping service for Samoa and forum countries.

PFL’s mission is to meet shipping and transport needs of Pacific customers with an efficient, reliable and profitable service.

The company was set up in 1978 with objectives to ensure regular shipping services, to offer modern services that encourage economic development in the South Pacific region, to contain freight rates and to operate a viable shipping service.

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