Pacific Direct Line Cuts Shipping To Cook Islands’ Aitutaki

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PM Puna surprised by move, calls on shipper for information

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan. 28, 2015) – The cutting of shipping services to Aitutaki from two voyages to one a month came as a complete surprise, says Prime Minister Henry Puna.

He hopes the operators of the discontinued service will ‘come forward and be open’ with people about why it was dropped, and says there could be more to the issue than meets the eye.

The service, operated by Pacific Direct Line in partnership with local company Uma Shipping is being dropped because it is no longer viable and will be replaced with a new ‘Connecting Carrier Agreement’ with Matson South Pacific Ltd.

Puna said the news the service would be cut in half had come as ‘totally unexpected’ as his office had not had any direct correspondence with Pacific Direct Line on the matter.

"We have not heard anything from the company so have not seen fit to respond. It would have been courteous if they had let us know."

Puna said he had called a meeting of shipping companies servicing the Cook Islands, to be held in Auckland on Monday.

"I know there is more to this issue. We are just waiting for them to come forward with the information."

Puna said he last met with the shipping companies on December 8 in Rarotonga. At that meeting, contrary to what Pacific Line Direct had told its customers last week, statistics showed tonnage figures had increased.

Pacific Line Direct declined to comment yesterday, saying all media requests should go to Uma Shipping, who hold the licence.

However, a spokesperson for Uma Shipping told CINews last week that although they were sad for the situation in Aitutaki, it had been a ‘business decision’.

They hoped to later review the situation in Aitutaki to see if there were any other options.

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