Vanuatu Director of Biosecurity: shipload of runway building material imported from China blocked, China is currently on the Foot and Mouth Disease blacklist

If Vanuatu cattle were exposed to the disease it could effectively shut down the meat export business

By Dan McGarry

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, August 15, 2017) – Following a decision by the Director of Biosecurity, the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company, or CCECC, is on the hook for a shipload of runway building material imported from China. The shipment was blocked in order to prevent contamination of local livestock and pigs by foreign diseases.

Asked about the orphan shipload of material, a figure close to the project told the Daily Post, “That’s their problem. They said in their tender it they would get it from Fiji. If they want to get it from somewhere else, they need to talk to the World Bank”.

There are multiple suppliers in Fiji, as well as in New Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand, the source said, “but it can’t come from China”.

The material, known as aggregate, consists of finely crushed stone which is later mixed with bitumen to make road and runway surfaces. CCECC’s original bid specified that the aggregate would be sourced in Fiji, but after the tender was awarded, they reportedly experienced difficulties assuring adequate and timely supply at the budgeted price.

As a result, they took the risk of loading a ship with runway construction equipment as well as a large volume of aggregate. But import of untreated materials such as aggregate is forbidden, because China is currently on the Foot and Mouth Disease blacklist.

Foot and mouth disease is an infectious and sometimes fatal disease for animals such as cows and pigs. If Vanuatu cattle were exposed to the disease, it could effectively shut down our meat export business.

In an email chain obtained by the Daily Post, Director of Biosecurity Timothy Tumukon confirmed to concerned local officials that “Biosecurity has issued an advice not to allow the aggregate from China”.

Asked why they would load up a shipload of materials without first seeking approval, one expert suggested, “maybe they thought they could work it out while the ship was on its way here”.

It was anything but a fait accompli.

Numerous sources expressed concern to the Daily Post that pressure might be brought to bear on politicians to intervene and allow the materials to be offloaded, but to their credit, everyone has stood fast. The Daily Post communicated with a number of politicians and their advisors, and were told that based on the advice from Biosecurity, the shipment could not be allowed.

This decision was carried unanimously by the Council of Ministers, and appears to be holding firm.

CCECC declined to respond to repeated requests for comment, and directed the Daily Post to the Vanuatu Project Management Unit for further information.

Moments before this article was submitted, a company representative replied with a one line statement that “CCECC is going to abide by the laws of Vanuatu”.

In a meeting late yesterday the VPMU representatives working on the Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project, which has oversight of the Bauerfield upgrade where the aggregate was to have been used, were able to confirm that only the construction equipment on the ship would be allowed to offload when the ship docks at the wharf on Thursday. No aggregate will be permitted on Vanuatu soil.

The ship is currently standing off Port Vila harbour, reportedly in Mele Bay.

Radio New Zealand International
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