Leroy private jetty opens security door wide open with questionable checks of out and in-bound ships
BY ALFRED SASAKO
WHEN Leroy private jetty was built along the Ranadi coast in early 2016, some businesses thought it was a good idea.
At the time the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) – the nation’s only declared ports – was going through some teething problem associated with its own multi-million dollar reform programme it has embarked on.
SIPA did not realise at the time the full extent of what Leroy Private Jetty had in mind. Now it seems clear Leroy Jetty is after SIPA’s revenue base from overseas ships using Point Cruz wharf and more.
Since Leroy Jetty opened for business in November 2016, SIPA had lost millions of dollars in businesses from pilotage, stevedoring and berthing charges which overseas ships avoid paying when they use Leroy Jetty.
“In 2017 alone, SIPA lost more than $10 million in revenue from overseas ships using Leroy Jetty along the Ranadi coast,” senior SIPA officials told Island Sun in an exclusive interview yesterday.
“SIPA loses more than $600,000 in charges each time an overseas vessel uses Leroy Jetty. It is a huge drain on SIPA revenue, which we will continue to lose until the government steps in,” one official said.
Leroy Jetty has applied to the Minister of Finance and Treasurer, Manasseh Sogavare to consider granting it a suffrage wharf status.
This week, officials from the Ministry’s Economic Reform Unit (ERU) held talks with SIPA management on the move.
“We have made our views known to the ERU officials. In our view it is not healthy financially for SIPA and the government and also in terms of safety and security. It is our hope that the government stands by us in this matter,” one official told Island Sun yesterday.
SIPA is planning to brief the Prime Minister, Ricky Houenipwela and his Deputy Mr Sogavare who is responsible for SIPA as a State-Owned Enterprise (SOE).
Apart from the revenue losses, there are several issues that are critical to the SIPA Management. These include international ship and port security (ISPS), safety and the need to comply with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) requirements.
“These are international requirements which must be upheld or Solomon Islands risks losing its licence as declared ports. What is happening since November 2016 is that we simply do not know what sort of cargo has come in and what is going out,” one SIPA Management official said.
“Operating an international seaport is the same as operating an international airport. Every fight that comes in must first be cleared before it lands here.
“In the case of SIPA ports, it must be cleared first by the Harbour Master as well as SIMSA before an international ship is allowed in. Right now, the only government agency that clears outbound and in-bound ships at the Leroy Jetty is Customs. Now that leaves our ports vulnerable especially at a time when international terrorism, shipments of contraband items and narcotics are a concern around the world,” the official said.