02 November, 2010.
Malo e Lelei,
I am very pleased and honoured to be here on behalf of the People and Government of Japan, to attend the commissioning ceremony for MV ‘Otuanga'ofa today. In expressing my sincere gratitude to the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, I thank all the stakeholders of this project for your cooperation and hard efforts. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your generous hospitality and the warm welcome extended to us this afternoon.
"The Project for the Construction of Inter-Islands Vessel" was initiated upon a request from the Government of Tonga, with a view to providing safe and reliable means of marine transportation for the people of Tonga. Recognizing the critical importance of marine transportation in carrying people and goods between islands, Japan decided to provide a new Inter-Islands Vessel to replace the MV Olovaha. This assistance is a testimony of the Government of Japan's firm commitment to contributing towards the improvement of basic infrastructure necessary for social and economic development of the Kingdom of Tonga.
MV ‘Otuanga'ofa was designed by the Project Manager, Mr Toyonori Watanabe, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport of Tonga, and built by ISB Co., Ltd. The Vessel was specially and carefully designed to suit Tongan waters by taking into consideration the conditions of the sea in and around Tonga. I would like to thank Mr Watanabe, staff members of ISB Co., Ltd and other individuals who have been involved in designing and constructing of the vessel, for their dedication and hard work in overseeing the successful completion of this Project.
Now, I would like to briefly describe some important features of the MV ‘Otuanga'ofa. First of all, the design places emphasis on safety, particularly on stability and fire-proof construction. The vessel is also equipped with highly efficient rudders and bow thrusters, which provide great manoeuvrability. In addition, the vessel has fuel efficient engines, modern electronic navigation equipment such as radars and GPS, as well as powerful cargo handling equipment.
The vessel was launched on the 13th of July in the ship yard of ISB Co., Ltd in Japan. After trial cruise and examination, the vessel departed Japan for Tonga on the 27th of September.
I would like to thank Lord Nuku for coming to Japan to witness the departure. Then, as you know, the vessel arrived in Tonga on the 15th of October.
On this occasion, I cannot refrain from recalling the tragedy of MV Princess Ashika, which was the interim-ferry replacing MV Olovaha. I would like to express again, on behalf of the people and Government of Japan, our deepest sympathy and most sincere condolences to the families, relatives, friends, people and the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, for their significant loss in this tragedy.
Then, taking this opportunity, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the Government of New Zealand and Australia in providing another interim-ferry, "Ajang Subuh," after the Ashika accident. I would like to further acknowledge these two Governments for their support with a view to ensuring smooth transition of the vessels.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere hope that the Government of Tonga will ensure an effective management system to be in place for the safe and effective operation and proper maintenance of the vessel to ensure that the Tongan people will benefit from this assistance in many years to come.
As you may know, this year marks the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Kingdom of Tonga, and since then, Japan and Tonga have maintained and developed cordial and cooperative relations. MV ‘Otuanga'ofa is a great monument in celebrating the 40th Anniversary and further acts as a sign of Japan's commitment to continue to cooperate with the people and the government of Tonga for their self-help efforts for economic and social development of the Kingdom.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved with making this splendid event possible today. I would like to conclude my speech by wishing that MV ‘Otuanga'ofa will serve to contribute to the betterment of the well-being of the people in Tonga, and further strengthen close and friendly relations between the people and Governments of Japan and Kingdom of Tonga.