Your Excellency, Ambassador Takuji Hanatani, and members of your delegation,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Chairman, General Manager and members of KPA Board of Directors,
Representatives from Dai Nippon –Toa Joint Venture,
Representatives from ECHO Consultant,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kam Na Bane Ni Mauri!
This is indeed a significant milestone. Sea Ports symbolize linkages within a nation and to the outside world. Sea Ports also represent a nation’s level of economic development – with the fastest growing economies having the busiest ports in the whole wide world. Kiribati with the assistance of Japan is indeed moving forward in its quest to raise the level of economic development.
The completion of the Betio Port Expansion Project brings the Betio Port to a new level. Previously barges were used as a means to transport container loads from vessels to the port. A process that often entails ships remaining in our ports for more than 1 day, at times more than 3 days particularly in rough weathers. As you will all agree with me, shipping companies run on a tight schedule as time is money – so the cost of vessels remaining in port is ultimately being borne by our consumers, our people.
Now with the completion of this new Jetty, the process is now four times faster allowing for a faster turnaround time for vessels. Now it is possible for a vessel to arrive in the morning and depart before sunset on the same day.
Equally important, barges present risks and safety concerns. I remember when a barge overturned during rough weather – luckily no-one was harmed, however, there was quite a concern for potential shortage of beer as some of the containers were full of beer. Now, with barges being made redundant the overall safety of the operations should indeed improve.
Not only that, the Government of Japan also donated Port Cargo Handling Equipment such as the 30-tonne forklift, 2 Prime movers, 2 20-foot Trailers, 1 40-foot trailer and the installation of navigation aids like buoys, beacons and lighting poles to equip the new port. Equipment necessary to properly resource the port and to raise its standard further.
Distinguished guests, I think we can safely say that Kiribati is on its way to relinquishing the title of being the slowest port in the region. I encourage KPA to aim for the title of the most efficient and effective port in the region – not only that, but let us dream further and make Betio Port the hub for this part of the region.
I have been made to understand that the expansion was expected to be completed by October of this year. The completion of the project ahead of schedule is a credit to Dai Nippon Construction-TOA Joint Venture along with ECHO Consultant. It shows that where there is a will, milestone achievements are indeed possible.
Whilst this project has reached completion stage, let us not forget that during its implementation, it brought economic benefits through the employment of our people, through increased consumer spending, just to name a few. And the economic benefits will continue with the reduction in the shipping costs and the potential for increased frequency of vessels calling into Betio Port. Equally important is the exchange of knowledge and technology – through the construction phase and continuing through the operation of the port.
On behalf of the Government and the people of Kiribati, I applaud and congratulate Dai Nippon Construction – TOA Joint Venture and ECHO Consultant for a job well-done. It is indeed a day to be proud of, for all of you who have contributed to the completion of this project.
Mr. Ambassador, I extend through you the gratitude and appreciation of the Government and the people of Kiribati, to the Government of Japan for its continued support and assistance in our development aspirations. Without the Government of Japan’s support this project and others before this, would not have been possible. It has indeed been a very mutually beneficial partnership and one that I am very confident will endure the passage of time. I am indeed very honored and very proud to bear witness to the official opening of the Betio Port Expansion.