Cooks Port Looks To Tow Immobilized Vessels Away From Dock

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Nasty weather could mean damage to wharf

By Florence Syme-Buchanan

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 31, 2015) – Ports Authority lawyers are working on getting the owners of two immobile vessels in Avatiu harbour to sign liability indemnity agreements.

The agreements are vital given it is cyclone season, with "nasty" weather forecast to arrive here within a few days.

The liability agreements will provide Ports Authority with some protection should the vessels damage Avatiu wharf. The authority is also considering towing both vessels out to sea in the event of extremely bad weather.

Ports Authority chief executive Bim Tou acknowledges they have a problem if bad weather strikes as both the Lady Moana, owned by Taio Shipping, and Tiare Taporo, owned by Pacific Schooners Ltd, have broken down.

Lady Moana was towed back to Rarotonga after the vessel’s propeller became entangled in purse seining nets crippling its engine. It was en route to Pukapuka and Nassau with much-needed supplies for the northern islands.

Tiare Taporo has been immobile in Avatiu wharf since arriving on November 12. Tou says the latest update he’s had from the owners is that engine parts have arrived for the vessel and have been installed. They are now awaiting more parts, he says.

Problems occurred last week when the container ship Liloa was unable to berth at Avatiu harbour as the Tiare Taporo was blocking its way. CI News understands the vessel was found to be padlocked, with no-one on board.

Tou says the Ports Authority tugboat eventually moved the Tiare Taporo and Lady Moana to allow the container ship into the harbour to unload. The cost of moving the vessels will be passed on to the owners.

In addition to liability indemnity agreements, Tou says the other option is to have the Tiare Moana tow both of the broken-down vessels out to sea if bad weather is inevitable.

"We’re trying to keep our options open.

"This is not an ideal situation at all in the time of our cyclone season."

Last month Tou said Tiare Taporo, which did not have a domestic shipping licence, was being allowed to moor at Avatiu wharf free of charge in anticipation of Pacific Schooners Ltd being granted one.

All vessels with domestic licenses are given free mooring as part of government’s social responsibility.

Ministry of Transport Stephen Simmons confirmed yesterday PSL still hadn’t been granted a licence to operate domestically. It is widely acknowledged that another vessel providing inter-island services is much needed here. Tiare Taporo has passed its safety certification by a marine surveyor.

The Cook Islands Meteorological Service has warned the weather could turn nasty in three to five days. MET director Arona Ngari has said the risk of bad weather over the festive season is higher this being an El Nino year.

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