Stakeholders christen 7-yr dream for Noro port

By Alfred Sasako

THE dream of turning Noro into a regional hub for transhipment of thousands of tonnes of frozen tuna to several international destinations around the world has been christened.

For one man it was a dream that took him seven long years to finally convince the various players both outside and in Solomon Islands to get the “right mix” to make it happened.

Yesterday the dream burst into reality when documents in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining the development plan for Noro were exchanged in the presence of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in a three-hour ceremony in Honiara.

The MOU binds Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA), MAERSK, the world’s largest shipping line and Tri Marine in a tripartite partnership to develop the port of Noro.

Mr Sogavare described the tripartite arrangement “a strategic alliance”.

“Through this, Solomon Islands is telling the international community that although we are small, we are ready to contribute to the global market,” he said.

Hong Kong-based MAERSK representative, Captain Thue Barford the man who carried the dream silently for the last seven years, was on hand to witness the “christening” so to speak of the Noro port plan.

Capt Barford thanked everyone including the Chairman, Board Members and the Management of SIPA, Tri Marine and its ground agent, National Fisheries Development (NFD) for their support.

In a brief presentation yesterday, he recalled, “selling” Noro as a potential port to his bosses in Singapore seven years ago.

“They all turned to me and said, and where is that? I looked at them and said, as a matter of fact, I don’t know.”

That was seven years ago. Yesterday’s “christening” the beginning of the expansion phase, which would see Noro wharf extended to a 150-metre long berth. It is now 60metres long.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but the potential to convert Noro into a transhipment hub for the region began with the exchanges of the documents today [yesterday]. It is now up to us to make it happen, adding he doubts anyone in the region would undermine the project because it is going to make other countries in the region want the same thing.

“The problem is that not every country in the region has the natural harbours such as what we have in Noro and in Honiara. And having their cargo transhipped from here is going to save costs for them,” Capt Barford said.

SIPA Chief Executive Officer, Eranda Kotelawala, told the gathering at The Heritage Park Hotel that Solomon Islands has a huge potential waiting to be realised.

“Solomon Islands’ potential is like oil sitting under the seabed. Unless the oil is pumped to the surface it is useless. The development of Noro is the beginning of realising this hidden potential.”

A Tri Marine representative said the challenge to make the project work rests with all the stakeholders, adding government agencies such as Customs and Fisheries in particular, have an important role to play.

Spokesmen for Customs and Fisheries gave their assurance in support of the project.

Representatives of MAERSK and TRI MARINE will travel west today to inspect the Noro facilities in preparation for the redevelopment.

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