Port Vila Transport System Called A ‘National Disgrace’ By Customs Official

After tourist bus crash calls to address system that is ‘unreliable, unsafe and of a very poor standard’

By Colin Cortbus

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 23, 2016) – In an open letter to the Minister of the Interior, a top customs official warned that the transport system in Port Vila is “unreliable, unsafe and of a very poor standard”.

Stanley Trief, who was writing in a personal capacity as a Port Vila resident, went on to tell Minister Alfred Maoh that public transport system “is so repulsive that it makes that it makes headlines in the region of its negative impact on Vanuatu’s tourism industry. It is basically a national disgrace, to say the least.”

Trief, who is Vanuatu’s Manager of Customs Border and Enforcement, wrote the letter to officials in March 2016.

In the aftermath of the devastating bus crash that left three people and left a dozen injured, Trief uploaded it to a popular social media forum for political discussion.

He told the Daily Post that the public transport system in Port Vila is unsafe because of the “conditions of the vehicles and the state of the Drivers”.

He commented, “The recent incidents and many in the past speak for themselves. Passengers are not safe in these vehicles, at least in most of them.”

In his letter, Trief recommended a sweeping program of new licensing regulations to address the perceived inadequacies of the Port Vila’s current bus and taxi based public transport system.

This included a call for vehicle inspections to make sure cars are roadworthy and safe, as well as police background checks for drivers. He advocated for checks to ensure drivers are not overworked by vehicle owners, as well as a health certificate and eye tests for conductors who want to drive public transport vehicles.

He suggested the introduction of licensing fees. This, he explained, was not as a measure to generate new government revenue but “as a means of recouping expenses involved in undertaking administrative activities and compliance checks”, designed to ensure drivers adhere to the stringent license conditions he proposed. Too many public transport vehicle are on the road, he warned.

This risked creating an “unhealthy and unbalanced” environment where investors and potential public transport operators are not getting a fair return on their investments: “The number of buses and taxis therefore needs to be reduced, period”.

Trief expressed surprise about the public’s enthusiastic reception of the letter, which has been liked over 400 times and attracted over 50 comments, many of which called for the minister to take action on his recommendations. Trief told the Daily Post “I wasn’t expecting the letter to have such a reaction from the public.”

Trief is not the only official concerned about the state of the public transit system in Port Vila. Speaking to the Daily Post, Sandy Banga, Chief Executive Officer of the Land Transport Authority in Vanuatu, expressed his sorrow over the horrendous recent, traffic accident. He spoke about a desire to improve the state of affairs, and noted that new transport laws had been considered late last year.

Banga said that his authority had been promised a budget by the government to implement changes. He continued, saying that when the budget is allocated “a regulation and a rulebook” would be issued. He stated “We will ensure that the drivers will be issued permits then and have qualified standards.”

Asked whether there was a problem with unqualified drivers right now, Banga said “Right now we have that issue. We have a lot of issues”. He said that he was hoping his authority will in future be able to take action and use a permit system to control issues such as inexperienced, too young drivers.

Asked whether the government had the willpower to act on his recommendation, letter-writer Trief told the Daily Post, “I sent this letter over three months ago, and no response whatsoever to date. They have the power, but do they have the will?”

Vanuatu Daily Post
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Mr. Stanley Trief pointed legal, moral, and ethical aspect of promoting tourism in Vanuatu. Health and Safety are everybody's business. More power to Stanley. Advocating Health and Safety in commerce, trade, tourism industry can never undersell. Pathway to receiving great Returns On Investment. My daughter Laila died preventable scuba diving with Aquamarine Santo on May 2, 2013. No Justice. Mr. Stanley Trief advocating safety measures transportation industry is a road to success to save the locals and tourists from needless death. Most respectfully, Vicky (Mother)

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