Shipping Service Cuts Planned For Cooks’ Aitutaki Ditched

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Pacific Line decides to retain twice monthly voyages

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 27, 2015) – Pacific Line Direct has reversed its decision to cut shipping services to Aitutaki from two voyages to one per month.

The reversal comes after Aitutaki MP Teina Bishop wrote to the two companies who were planning to axe the service.

However, the Tiare Moana’s voyages to Aitutaki will only continue for the next three months, while a longer-term solution is sought.

Pacific Direct Line (PDL) yesterday informed customers by letter that they had been advised their plans to cut the direct service between New Zealand and the Cook Islands under the Uma shipping licence was contrary to Cook Islands law as it lessens competition.

They were alerted to the 1999 International Shipping Act by Aitutaki MP Teina Bishop, who wrote to Matson South Pacific and Uma Shipping last week explaining that their move was illegal.

In PDL’s letter to customers said there was a legal requirement for the service frequency to Aitutaki provided for in the licence be maintained. However, this would not be possible under the arrangement they had made to cut the service.

"As the Cook Islands is an important part of our long term vision for our shipping network in the South Pacific, we do not wish to cease trading in this area, and have therefore decided to continue the service with no interruption to the current schedule," PDL said.

"We look forward to your continued support on this direct service which will benefit the importers and exporters who have come to rely upon it."

Earlier this year PDL said the service would be dropped because it was no longer viable. It would be replaced with a new ‘Connecting Carrier Agreement’ with Matson South Pacific Ltd, under which Cook Island cargo would be carried to Suva or Apia on a scheduled service to connect to services operated by Matson using the ships Olomana and Lilo.

The cut had been a major blow to the people of Aitutaki, and he was pleased to see the issue resolved, Bishop said.

However, it was still unknown in what form the service would continue past the next three months.

In a letter responding to Bishop’s, PDL’s Olivier Ravel said the three months will give the operators a chance to ‘re-evaluate’ the service. The aim would be to find a long term solution which was both sustainable and viable and would benefit all parties and stakeholders, he said.

"It will also allow us to have some constructive dialogue with the government, with a view as to how best to provide the service that they expect for the Cook Islands."

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