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37th Pacific Maritime Transport Alliance Conference: Statement by Prime Minister

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17 October 2012 Keynote Address by the Honourable Lord Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano at the Opening of the annual regional Conference of the Pacific Maritime Transport Alliance on its 37th session. This two-day Conference is held at the Fa'onelua Convention Centre in Nuku'alofa from 17-18 October 2012.

President of the Pacific Maritime Transport Alliance,

Chairperson and Members of PMTA Governing Council,

Chairman and Members of the Ports Authority Tonga, Board of Directors,

Reverend Dr. ‘Ahio,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Each day is a challenge and to overcome it depends on how well we manage and put into practice the best of our ability.

Ports are a key infrastructure.  An efficient port operation supports the economic development of our Pacific Island Nations.  Ports facilitate the movement of cargo into and out of our island nations.  Ports encourage tourism through facilitating port visits of the fast expanding global cruise business.  Ports create employment opportunities not only at the Ports but also in support of the wider economy of our nations.

An efficient port operation with competitive port charges and excellent service to port users will create opportunities for our island nations.  The converse is also true.  An inefficient port operation will inhibit  the economic development of our nations.

Ports should be viewed as a business.  Issues that a Government needs to consider include the extent of private sector involvement in the running of our port operations.  Most of our Pacific Island ports are public enterprises but the private sector can play an important role in assisting the efficient provision of services.  Opportunities do exist for port operations to make a useful financial contribution to the Government shareholder, port owner as well as support the economic development of our island nations.

Our port operations face considerable challenges.  These challenges include the financing of port operations including essential capital investment  in ensuring the safe and secure operation of our ports as well as providing infrastructure to facilitate the efficient movement of goods and people through our ports.  Financing these investment decisions is a challenge as most of our ports have relatively limited shipping movements upon which to earn revenue to fund capital investment in infrastructure improvements.

Ensuring security meets our international obligations is an increasing challenge both in meeting operational procedures and financing the increased security requirements.

Ensuring the safe working conditions and safety of our work forces and all port users is an important issue that we must all regard seriously.  The awareness of the need to manage our ports in an environmentally sensitive way is an emerging issue for all our island nations.  This aspect also has a cost attached in meeting enhanced environmental requirements.

The cost of insurance of our port operations and those who use the ports is an increasing burden as international insurance premiums continue to increase.  Ensuring that our boarders are protected from prohibited imports and other illegal actions is also a challenge.  We also face challenges in ensuring that all customs revenue from cargo movements are collected by our custom department operations.

The topic of "Pacific Ports Creating Opportunities in Global Challenges" is timely and appropriate.  The opportunities and challenges that I have mentioned are all important issues that you as conference attendees  will be discussing at this important conference.  You will have an opportunity to view some of the initiatives that Ports Authority Tonga has taken to address the opportunities and challenges.  For example, we are extremely proud of our recently completed new wharf for cruise liner calls.  This will encourage tour operators to include Nuku'alofa as a preferred destination of call with a major stimulus to our wider economy.

I welcome you all here to our nation.  We look forward to sharing our challenges with you, listening to your opportunities and challenges, and discussing mutual solutions.

I look forward to hearing back from my officials on the discussions and decisions that you reach over the next few days.

I join our conference organizer - Ports Authority Tonga in wishing you a most productive conference and enjoyable stay in our country.

I have much pleasure in declaring this conference open.

Malo ‘aupito

Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa, 2012. For more information please contact the Prime Minister's Office on +676 28644

 

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