Majority Of Cargo Delivered To Remote Cook Islands Damaged

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

High seas cause water damage to 60% of Penrhyn shipment

By Cameron Scott

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 12, 2016) – Over 60 per cent of the cargo delivered to Penrhyn (Tongareva) by the Pacific Schooners Ltd vessel Tiare Taporo arrived on April 29 suffering water damage.

That’s according to island residents who have spoken to CI News on condition of anonymity.

The Canadian-built vessel arrived at Tongareva after a gruelling 10-day voyage in stormy weather.

What was described by PSL director Garth Broadhead as "a minor technical problem" meant the vessel had to ram a bank at the end of Omoka wharf before it could stop and allow angry and ill passengers to disembark quickly.

CI News has received complaints from several people about what they described as "appalling" conditions aboard the Tiare Taporo during the trip to Tongareva and there has been talk of taking legal action against Pacific Schooners.

An island resident who asked not to be named said on Monday there had been "some issues" with the Tiare Taporo’s entry to Tongareva wharf.

"Impatience and the issues with the boat’s engines required it to come in as soon as possible.

"However our island wharf management were only able to respond after 7am when the boat had already hit the wharf.

"Luckily there was no major damage to boat or wharf and our island government excavator pushed the vessel off the wharf as the front end of it is shallow and sandy.

"Our island mechanic assisted the boat’s engineer to restart the Tiare Taporo’s emergency generator within 24 hours to save most of the freezer goods.

"On Monday of last week our mechanic helped the engineer to fix the boom of the crane to be able to sort offload cargo in a more orderly manner.

"After this exercise it was more possible to see the extent of the cargo damage. Over 60 per cent of Tongareva cargo made up of dry goods and building supplies, was damaged. Cargo for Rakahanga, Manihiki and Pukapuka were not really affected.

"Parts for the engine arrived Saturday and by Saturday evening the boat had its engine restored."

"Today the captain has ordered oil from the island government so we expect for them to depart soon."

Meanwhile, a story in last week’s CI Herald headlined "Mike Henry’s death ship stranded in Penryhn and at risk of sinking" appears to have attracted the ire of Pacific Schooners director Garth Broadhead, who has sent several messages to CI News asking if there is a "media watchdog" in the Cook Islands.

CI News also published a story on the breakdown-prone vessel last week, but quoted Broadhead from an email he sent to a reporter. The email explained the story behind a video clip posted on Facebook, showing the Tiare Taporo being pushed by an excavator off a gravel bank at the end of Omoka wharf.

Broadhead said the ship had suffered "a minor technical problem" and the captain had opted to run into the bank to stop the vessel.

The Herald story, however, went a great deal further, straining the bounds of credibility with a two-page piece headlined, "Mike Henry’s death ship stranded in Penryn and at risk of sinking."

The lengthy article, by Herald owner George Pitt, claimed Pacific Schooners director Mike Henry had sounded out government for urgent financial assistance to have the vessel towed back to Rarotonga, because neither Ocean Fresh owner Bill Doherty nor Cook Islands Towage director Malcolm Sword were interested in taking on the job unless they were paid upfront.

Pitt claimed small boat owners on Penryhn were talking about combining forces to tow the stricken vessel away from their wharf.

The Tiare Taporo is expected to leave Tongareva today at either 11am or 5pm.

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