Trade boost

CEO of SIPA Mr Eranda Kotelawala.
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SIPA unveils infrastructure development plan for Noro and Honiara, engages world’s largest shipping line


By Alfred Sasako

SOLOMON Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) has embarked on a multi-million dollar infrastructure development plan, which will lay the foundation for economic growth at the nation’s seaports for the next 50 years, its Chief Executive Officer, Eranda Kotelawala has revealed.

Part of the plan, which will see the expansion of Noro wharf in Western Province, involves a tripartite partnership arrangement with MAERSK, the world’s largest shipping line and Tri-Marine.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) cementing the relations is expected to be signed in Honiara on October 18, Mr Kotelawala told Island Sun in an exclusive interview yesterday.

“This is going to be the beginning of massive changes for the way we do things at our ports. Extensive training would be provided particularly to the stevedoring staff as much of the operation would be mechanised,” Mr Kotelawala said.

Under the arrangement, MAERSK will call into Noro Ports twice a month to pick-up reefer containers and carry them to several international destinations.

MAERSK’s regular visits would also be an opportunity for all Solomon Islands products, including sawn timber, cocoa and coconut virgin oil to be sent to markets around the world.

“To help us prepare for this project, MAESK will provide two fish off loaders and two generators for emergency use in the event there are power cuts in Noro,” he said.

“Solomon Islands is in a geo-strategic position, which unfortunately was not taken advantage of in the past. Now, large shipping companies are coming to us and saying they are willing to partner with us in building our ports in order to handle the volume of cargoes envisaged to pass through our seaports.

“They are giving us an opportunity to prove that we can do it,” Mr Kotelawala said.

He said he wanted to “set the foundation for this growth, which will result in Noro and Honiara becoming the hubs for handling regional cargo.

The potential is here, but we’ve got to prepare for it”.

In Noro, there are plans to extend the 60-metre berth by another 90 metres.

At the same time SIPA has begun paving the container area as part of the new development.

As well, work has begun on the International Shipping Ports Security (ISPS) area in line with international requirements.

In Honiara, there are plans to upgrade part of the old international wharf as well as the local jetties to withstand earthquakes and tsunami.

This is to build a life-line section for both international and domestic shipping in Solomon Islands.

Mr Kotelawala said these important infrastructures have been neglected for far too long and he is pleased the SIPA Board is being supportive of the overall development plans for both Noro and Point Cruz.

Meanwhile SIPA has signed an International Sister Port Agreement with Kaohsiung Port in southern Taiwan.

The MOU is intended to promote and develop “greater understanding, friendship and trade opportunities” between the two ports.

Kaohsiung is one of the busiest seaports in the world, handling an estimated 100 container ships at any one time, compared with Point Cruz which can handle only two.