VIEWPOINT- SIPA CEO is again in the news, but for mere led lights

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Former CEO, SIPA

IN the interest of fair press, I take liberty to update readers to the early history of toils and sweat that preceded the most recent glamour and fanfare of CEO of SIPA in mere switching on of LED Lights at Noro Port. 

His extravagance is digging deep into the pocket of port users and ordinary paying citizen of Solomon Islands.

I would not have bothered, but the good man once went public to discredit former CEOs of SIPA as not having done their job. 

The sweeping statement made Wednesday 18th December 2020 on page 3, Issue 2434 of The Island Sun Newspaper; to the effect that all CEOs before him had not been doing their jobs and that had they done so, SIPA would have been much better off; is the particular case in point.

This is the brunt of his denial of former CEOs.  He must have missed something.  May I recount the past to put matters into perspective.

In 1989, just before Christmas, late Capt. Raymond Maebiru, founding Port Manager/Port Pilot of Noro, together with a workforce of eight men, received their first international cargo vessel at the Noro International Port. 

It was an inaugural act, a culmination of successful completion of a multilateral grant-in-aid project for a ‘Township and International Port Project’.

Within the project scope were fisheries, energy and community service components.  Organisations involved were, MEMRE, SIEA, SIHA (forerunner of Home Finance), CEMA and SIPA.

Having oversight role for the energy component was the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Rural Electrification (MEMRE), of which notably the oversight officer is now a former Prime Minister of Solomon Islands.

He was freshly out of University at the time.  I was the Civil Engineer project managing for and on behalf of SIPA. 

I exercised liaison role with SIEA, CEMA, SIHA and MEMRE.

The international berth and port compound was, at the time, a comprehensive array of facilities and support infrastructure for a functioning international port. 

It was a phase of the overall project funded by European Union and constructed by an offshore Contractor. 

The components to this phase were the international wharf, fuel bunkering manifold, a 40x20m warehouse, five navigation leading lights, and two state-of-art wharf light towers complete with retractable lights suspenders that can be crank-winged to lower or hoist for servicing. 

These lights were ballast equipped with selector and intensity switches. 

They were cutting-edge technology, and were designed for purpose and capacity for the time and period of their installation.

The opening of Noro International Port to receive the first international cargo vessel was just another working day and another port operation activity. 

We did not engage in any pomp or fanfare.

Because I was the Project Manager acting on behalf of Chief Engineer and General Manager SIPA, and responsible to the Delegate of the European Union, the call for use of the new international berth was mine. 

Back in the Honiara office, I received a telephone call from late Capt. Raymond Maebiru one afternoon requesting to use the berth, for it had had final inspections more than two months previous. 

I told him to go ahead and berth the vessel alongside the new wharf.  And that was how it was; no big deal. 

We did not have the resources for grandiosity and pomp, but even if we had we would have considered these to be waste of public funds, for the funds in SIPA’s Bank Account are public funds.

Over time the Port of Noro had grown in trade and requirements for augmentative development. 

As far back in the mid-90s, Noro Port was already identified as the ‘point-dead-centre’ of the shipping lane and trade route from Asia to New Zealand, and that it was ideal spot for a hub-port. 

I still have on data base the write-up I did for that project.  It was to be called the ‘Kula Gulf Port Precinct’, incorporating the slot surrounded by Noro Cove, Tunguivili/Mbaeroko, Kolombangara Is., Gizo and Vona Vona/Kohingo.

An Inception Report had been done but moving forward would require political will and capable professionals.

Incidentally, the former PM alluded to as representative for MEMRE in the international port construction phase above was current in the post when I was putting together these project aspirations. 

He, through a staff member of PMO, was behind the conduct of the Inception Report.

But then again, this may have also been missed by the current CEO of SIPA.

After all, the dream for hub-port for Solomon Islands may be difficult to attain due to extremely high tariff charge by SIPA compared to all the ports in the region. 

We had also been chasing after a ‘Market Position’ called the ‘Favoured Port’ status which entails enticements by ‘market positioning’.

At this point in time this may be farfetched because SIPA’s tariff is turning international shipping away; in effect, it is a dichotomy. 

Acting to worsen the situations for these forlorn dreams, the current CEO’s expenditure on peripherals and neglect of core necessities is conspicuous.

He spends unnecessarily on visibility exercises. 

SIPA is already aptly visible; so much so to the point of being a sore thumb.  He cannot fool all of the people all of the time. 

This extravagance is going to come to an end when enough people realise SIPA’s expenditure binge is unsustainable.

That end time is probably imminent more sooner than later.