By Mike Puia
THE number of local ships brought into the country has seen a 50 percent increase in four years, from 2013 to 2017.
In 2013, the number of ships was 196 with a total of 52,865.18 gross tonnes. But in 2017, the number of ships has grown to 280, with a total of 100,438.50 gross tonnes.
Many of the ships brought during this period are obtained using the shipping grant; this is grant administered by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development.
During this four-year period, it is reported that the shipping grant has increased from SBD$9 million in 2013 to SBD$85 million in 2017.
The Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA) said the increase has resulted in over-tonnage on some routes.
During a presentation at a recent seafarers’ workshop in Honiara, SIMSA’s director, Capt Tim Harris said ships brought using the shipping grant has also created unfair competition especially on private sector ships that are purchased on loans.
Harris said SIMSA is concern as this defeats the object of privatizing the inter-island shipping service.
He said they are also concern as getting ships using this grant creates a culture where constituencies expect cheap subsidised shipping cost.
Meanwhile, Harris encouraged those who want to bring in ships from overseas to involve SIMSA in the selection of ships.
He said getting the right ship is important. From experience, SIMSA is always sidelined in the selection of ships that are brought into the country.
Harris said SIMSA can help recommend the best boat that is good and has the capability to do the job saying, there are boats that are only designed for short run, be to cross a river, which is not suitable here.