Minggu, 13 Mei 2018

Samoan airline deals at centre of Tokelau chopper purchase

Tokelau’s controversial helicopter buy was part of at least one major Samoan airline deal, along with plans for the establishment of a luxury hotel on the remote New Zealand-administered territory.
In February, then Foreign Minister Murray McCully slammed Tokelau over the purchase of two helicopters that he described as “extravagances”, and later said they represented “a breakdown in Tokelau’s governance”.
David Nicholson, New Zealand’s​ Administrator for the territory, also imposed restrictions on Tokelau’s capital spending and has since carried out a review into the helicopters which found government officials behind the purchases did not have the authority to make them.
Documents obtained by Asia Pacific Report under the Official Information Act confirm earlier revelations that the helicopters, which will now be sold off, were part of an “interim air service”, with the end goal of establishing runways on Tokelau.
Last October, a Tokelau “senior public servant”, whose name was redacted, advised the NZ Civil Aviation Authority (NZCAA) that Tokelau was exploring a fixed-wing air service between Samoa and Tokelau.
According to the public servant, Polynesian Airlines, which is co-owned by the Samoan government, would be functioning as the service operator, made possible through a “partnership arrangement” with private Samoan tourism company, Grey Investment Group (GIG).
It is unclear whether the public servant is one of the two who were suspended pending an investigation by Tokelau’s government into their role in the helicopter purchases.

Commercial deal

A document from February last year, composed by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) official, reveals Tokelau’s bilateral team advised MFAT of a proposal made by a hotelier, whose name was redacted, for a commercial deal involving “operating a helicopter service from Apia to Tokelau”.
Its purpose would be to deliver tourists “to a proposed high end hotel in Tokelau”.
The chairman of GIG is Alan Grey, son of famous proprietor Aggie Grey and who holds several senior government and corporate positions in Samoa, including a directorship of Polynesian Airlines.
GIG has an extensive portfolio of investments, including several high end hotels and resorts across the Pacific, and Alan Grey is also chairman of the Samoa Hotel Association.
Polynesian Airlines and GIG have not responded to requests for comment.
The arrangement with Polynesian Airlines was mentioned as early as September in email correspondence between NZCAA and MFAT officials.
It was also described in a January meeting between David Nicholson, several MFAT and NZCAA officials, and Tokelau’s Chief Technical Helicopter Adviser and Financial Adviser.  

‘Logistical support’

Polynesian Airlines was “providing logistical support” to Tokelau, “including hangar space and access to fuelling facilities”, according to notes from the meeting.
However, earlier documents reveal Polynesian Airlines was not the only Samoan company that expressed interest in a fixed-wing air service to Tokelau.
In a November email, which had its recipients redacted but includes a “minister”, then High Commissioner to Tuvalu Linda Te Puni said she had “heard about a number of proposals for helicopter services and a seaplane service involving Talofa airways with possibly a Japanese company”.
In another email later that month and this time addressed to multiple NZCAA officials, Te Puni confirmed Tokelau was in discussions with Talofa Airways.
In October, a representative for the airline advised NZCAA of the logistics of future flights to and landings on Tokelau, after NZCAA requested the information so that it could determine the relevant rules for aircraft operation in Tokelau.
Following earlier statements from Ulu-o-Tokelau Siopili Perez and former Foreign Minister Murray McCully that the helicopters would be sold off, a chain of emails starting from late February show those plans are now under way.
A number of discussions between CAA and MFAT officials detailed the logistics of selling or contracting out the two helicopters to recover their initial cost.
March correspondence between NZCAA and MFAT officials revealed Administrator David Nicholson had “been approached” by Hawker Pacific, an Auckland-based aviation provider, with the intention of it acting as a sales agent for the helicopters.

Air Vanuatu posts VT 296 million profit

AIR Vanuatu has achieved a significantly improved profit of VT296m for the 2017 financial year.
The Chief Executive Officer of Air Vanuatu has announced that it has continued its trajectory of good governance, customer service improvements and financial stability by announcing that following a profit to the airline of VT120m in 2016.
CEO Joseph Laloyer said the airline is now hopeful of securing a second jet in the second half of 2019.
The end of year results were audited by Port Vila accountancy and auditing firm Law Partners.
“We attribute this success to a lot of hard work, re-establishing our codeshare relationship with Qantas, regaining our IOSA certification and pushing on despite the hardships,” said Mr Laloyer.
“In 2015 we were ravaged by TC Pam, however the withdrawal of other carriers gave us higher load factors which is reflected in our 2016 results. Marketing plans put in place after TC Pam and in early 2016 resulted in our 2017 success.
“Our priority in 2018 is to retain our IOSA certification – these results announced today will not be possible without it.”
He said Air Vanuatu’s IOSA safety audit process begins this month.
“It is a crucial time at the airline in the coming months. We want to keep the airline profitable and to do so we need to pass IOSA, which we are confident of doing.”
Air Vanuatu intends to re-invest the profit in the company and is working towards expanding its network to include more Australian and regional ports.
“As CEO, I have been focused on getting the airline back in to the black as well as ensuring we meet international standards for compliance, safety and service. We’ve had solid growth in 2016 and 2017 thanks to this compliance and now it’s time we looked to expand our network.
“I believe we have a corporate responsibility to promote the destination and I am taking the lead role in ensuring Air Vanuatu’s marketing not only ensures our planes are full, but we have the right kind of partnerships in place that ensure Air Vanuatu is getting the best out of our codeshare agreements.
“Based on our current revenue growth and keeping our costs low, I am planning to secure a second jet in the second half of 2019, and looking to expand our network with more frequency to existing ports and several new ports in Australia and the region, with Melbourne at the top of this list.
“Feasibility and research with good planning takes several months, as does choosing the right aircraft to meet the demands of this expansion,” Mr. Laloyer said.
“Air Vanuatu has strong partnerships with airlines in the region that we intend to leverage further ensuring we achieve an equitable contribution and positive results for future ongoing growth.”
He thanked the shareholders and board of directors of the airline for their ongoing support of Air Vanuatu.
“We made a commitment to the government to get the airline back on track. I am delighted with these results and for fulfilling that commitment,” he said.

Kamis, 10 Mei 2018

Air Canada partnership to benefit SI travelers

FRONT PAGE_Mr. James Howey [L] Business Development Manager Air Canada with Mr. Dwivedi during announcement of new partnership arrangement that will benefit Solomon Islander's travelling to Canada.
Solomon Islands nationals traveling to Canada as part of the Foreign worker program or migrating under Permanent Residence nomination program from Guadalcanal Province, will be benefiting from a new partnership arrangement with Air Canada for their travel into Canada.
This partnership benefit will also be extended to any Solomon Islands province that is joining the education and training program offered by Canadian International Training & Education [CITREC].
The proposed route will be from Brisbane, Australia into Vancouver, Canada.
The arrangement becomes effective immediately and offers convenient travel for Solomon Islands nationals.
Air Canada is pleased to be able to support the Guadalcanal Province CITREC Graduates of the Solomon Islands and their Foreign Worker Migration program to Canada via Brisbane, Australia gateway which offers nonstop service to Vancouver and easy connections to the rest of Canada,” said Kevin Howlett, Senior Vice President Regional Markets & Government Relations. 
"And we will soon add another year-round Australian gateway to our network with the addition of direct Melbourne service, adding to our ongoing flights from Sydney and Brisbane.
“With an unparalleled choice of 3 Australian gateways, we are delighted to be welcoming Solomon Island nationals on board Air Canada," Mr. Howlett said.
Guadalcanal Premier Honourable Anthony Veke has welcomed this opportunity.
"We welcome this opportunity with Canada's national airline Air Canada and the support this arrangement will be providing to people of my province and other Solomon Islands provinces in the very near future," Premier Hon. Veke said.
Premier Veke said that Air Canada has embarked on a venture where it is transporting Solomon Islands citizens to new opportunities.
"As Canada's national airline, Air Canada is flying my people to new heights. New heights of opportunity. It is helping make dreams come true and I thank every staff member and management of Air Canada for this opportunity.
“I look forward to my people from Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands experiencing Canadian hospitality on Air Canada flights very soon as we prepare a pool of people for Canadian job opportunities," Premier Veke said.
CITREC Chairman Mr. Ashwant Dwivedi has welcomed the partnership saying the Air Canada partnership will help further propel Solomon Islands partnership with Canadian's.
"This partnership will become a great convenience for people travelling into Canada under the arrangement. Air Canada being Canada's national airline has united families from across the world for many years.
“Now it is bringing the people of Solomon Islands into Canada. It is demonstrating its global commitment. This is a great achievement for our partnership with Canada and we look forward to growing this opportunity together with Air Canada," Mr. Dwivedi said.
"There is also cargo opportunity that we can discuss with Air Canada. There is great opportunity that this partnership brings with itself.
“Air Canada has Pacific reach and we can work in partnership with the airline to develop our export of goods and services from Solomon Islands into North America," Mr. Dwivedi who is also Solomon Islands Hon.Consul General to Canada said.
Air Canada is Canada's largest domestic and international airline serving more than 220 airports on six continents.  Canada's flagship carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2017 served close to 48 million customers.
Air Canada is also the first airline to voluntarily join the World Bank's IMF Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition. Air Canada's efforts to be environmentally responsible – were recognized recently when Air Transport World named Air Canada Eco-Airline of the Year for 2018, global recognition that the airline says they are very proud of.

Senin, 07 Mei 2018

Erakor Golden Star FC hemi niu PVFA jampion

Vanuatu Daily Post - Long Fraede las wik taem we Tupuji Imere hemi pleiem Siaraga, eye blong olgeta futbol fan raon long Port Vila i bin stap long maj ia, from sapos Tupuji Imere hemi bin winim maj ya bambae i shud pushum Erakor blong winim maj blong hem long wiken ya.
Faenol sko blong Tupuji mo Siaraga i lukim tufala i dro long wan sko blong 1-1, i mekem se Tupuji mo Erakor i level long 28 poen long klasmen, be diferens hemi stap long gol avarej, we Erakor hemi stil lid, nomata we hemi no plei las gem long Sarere iet.
Dro blong Siaraga las wik long Fraede i mekem se hem bambae hemi pleiem relegesen bageken olsem las sisen.
Long olgeta maj blong wiken, fes maj i lukim Ifira Black Bird FC hemi kam blong winim wan strong Mauwia saed long 4-2.
Sko laen ya hemi no soem dominens blong Ifira, we oli mestem blong konvetem 3 penalty, mo plante nara klia poen we oli no putum bihaen long net.
Win blong Ifira i mekem se olgeta i konfemem las ples insaed long Top 4 we Daily Sport bambae hemi jas kamaot blong anaonsem program blong O Lik kwalifaea blong Port Vila Football Association (PVFA).
Afta long maj i lukim Ifira tim i bin laenap blong sekhan long Mauwia long spirit blong Fair Play from hemi las maj blong Mauwia long premia divisen, from nekis sisen oli stap go daon long fes divisen.
Sekon maj blong dei, Shepherds United oli kam blong winim Erakor long wan sko blong 2-0.
Nomata long win, be Shepherds be i lukim Erakor hemi klemem jampionship taetol blong 2017/2018 aot long Ifira Black Bird FC.
Las maj blong dei Tafea FC hemi kam blong mekem wan 1-1 dro wetem BSP Amicale FC.
Olgeta maj long wiken mo Fraede las wik, hemi olgeta las maj blong Digicel 2017/2018 sisen, mo naoia focus blong olgeta klab we oli kwalifae from Top 4 i stap finis long kompetisen ya, mo plante oli stap negosietem finis olgeta niu pleia blong strengthenem tim blong olgeta long kompetisen ya.
Raymond Nasse
Sports Editor

Air Vanuatu to Resume Longana Flights

Vanuatu Daily Post - Air Vanuatu will resume flights to Longana airport on Ambae later this week after receiving advice operations with non-turboprop aircraft could resume, subject to increased safety measures.
The airline has discontinued turboprop (Twin Otter) operations to Longana airport to eliminate risk from volcanic ash on the aircraft type.
Chief Executive Officer Joseph Laloyer said Air Vanuatu has been closely monitoring Longana flights and deemed any risk to their aircraft would be too high to continue Twin Otter operations whilst volcanic ash continues to be present.
“The airline’s non-turboprop aircraft, the Britten-Norman Islander has been deemed safe to fly to Longana by our flight operations, engineering and safety systems departments subject to daily ash reports from the island,” he said.
Air Vanuatu will base the Islander in Santo to operate to Longana as required.
“There is a backlog of passengers (wanting to travel to and from Longana) which we will address this week. Passengers from Vila will fly to Santo on our ATR then connect on the islander to Longana.”
The airline will only operate to Longana when safe to do so; all passengers booked to fly to Longana should be prepared for possible cancellations should the ash increase.
“Unfortunately, the situation on Ambae is beyond our control and we expect further delays and cancellations to occur whilst ash continues to fall. All ticketed passengers will need to reconfirm their flights on the day of departure until further notice,” Mr. Laloyer said.
Air Vanuatu will provide updates where possible of flight cancellations via their website, social media and local radio.

Sabtu, 15 April 2017

How Australia killed our dream honeymoon to Vanuatu

Daily Post - Elena and I got married on the second last day of 2015, just a few days before she began her MBA in January. We had met four years earlier, in London, at an expats meeting, and we’re now living in Paris where I work and where she would be studying.

Her imminent studies meant that we would have to hold off our honeymoon until she had finished a year later, for want of time as well as the finances. The MBA wasn’t going to pay for itself, after all.

We had dreamed of going to Vanuatu — a paradise land of turquoise waters, sunny beaches and fiery volcanoes. It always seemed so far-fetched, though; almost half a world away, it was just about the most remote place on earth from where we lived.

Late last year, as she was going to graduate in December, I had decided to make the dream a reality, and surprise her with the tickets that would be my Christmas, New Year’s, Graduation, 1-year Wedding Anniversary, and 5-year anniversary present to her.

For days I researched flight options, looking for the cheapest flights and also the least tiring. I had wanted to minimize the time spent in transit for each leg and also give us time to recover, which meant staying a night at a waypoint. In the end, I had settled on Paris to Singapore, via Abu Dhabi; Singapore to Brisbane; and finally, Brisbane to Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu. I checked visa requirements for every location and there were no issues for either myself, a dual Canadian and Polish passport holder or her, a Romanian passport holder.

For the next month until the travel day, we lived in gleeful anticipation, planning our itinerary and making a checklist of everything we wanted to see and do. We would start in Efate, checking out Vila, the Mele Cascades, exploring the north; then off to Tanna to see the formidable Mount Yasur, the hot springs and the blue holes; then Espiritu Santo for some great beaches and snorkeling; Ambrym, with its two volcanoes and lava lake; and if time permitted it, maybe a stop in Epi for a swim with a dugong before getting back to Port Vila and flying back.

But at Changi Airport in Singapore on the evening of January 31, those hopes were dashed. Unable to check in to our Qantas flight, we asked the staff for help. Do you have the relevant visas, the lady at the counter asks.

Schengen-zone nationals are eligible for a free eVisitor visa which they can apply for online. In fact, I didn’t even bring my Canadian passport as this process seemed easier (and cheaper). I had applied for mine a week earlier and had received the visa automatically. Elena had applied before me and still didn’t get hers. Border Australia’s website helpfully claimed that 90% of all applications were processed within 3 days. Something was up. We tried to explain that our flight would arrive at 7am the next day and our next flight would leave at 10, just three hours later, so we wouldn’t even leave the airport. This did not matter: not the same airline. They told us they would change our flights while instructing us to go to the Australian consulate to work the visa issue out. As the next flight from BNE to PVI wasn’t until four days later, this gave us a whole week. So I called the other airline and, for an extra fee of A$280 plus huge roaming, long distance costs (calling an AUS number from a French phone in SIN) I managed to change the last leg flight to keep the same transit times. We would lose four days in Vanuatu, but at least our honeymoon wasn’t dead – yet.

The next day, we arrived at the consulate where we’re promptly told to bugger off, as there is nothing they can do for us there. They give us a phone number to call and an email address to write to.

Still hurting from the long distance charges for changing the flights, we asked strangers on the street if we can borrow their phones to make a local call. Singaporeans are helpful, the opposite of the Australian bureaucracy. We managed to get through to an official and, after explaining our situation, she basically told us that she should have worn a longer dress (ok, she said we should have applied for the visa earlier – thanks!).

She tells us to go to APAC, a private company dealing with visa applications to Australia, to resolve our issues. APAC, unsurprisingly, can’t help us. They could – for a hefty charge – help us apply for another visa, but you can’t have more than one visa application active at a time and cancelling an existing visa application takes several days.

We also, during this time, sent off several pleading emails to the address we were given, never receiving a response, despite being informed that they reply to all requests within 48 hours. We also make numerous trips back to the airport. The stress of the experience caused my immune system to collapse: a cold I caught on my first day developed into bronchitis for which I now needed antibiotics. To add insult to injury, my health insurance policy covers Vanuatu, not Singapore.

The situation we’re in is straight out of a Kafka novel: stuck in Singapore where we were only planning to transit through with nobody from the Australian Border Force we can even talk to much less get help from.

By the time of our scheduled flight, we still can’t check in. The visa hasn’t arrived. Despondent, we asked for a refund for our flights as trying to change the tickets again no longer makes sense, neither financially, nor would we have enough time to properly enjoy Vanuatu. We’re told to email our request for which we can only hope of getting a partial refund, at best. At this point, we just wanted to cut our losses and go back home, forgetting we ever wished to go on this honeymoon. We can’t even do that without paying additional thousands. Ultimately, we decided to spend our remaining weeks in Malaysia, the country that salvaged our disastrous trip, but not before losing thousands of euros, a week of vacation, and incurring incalculable stress.

After this ordeal, we no longer have any wish to step foot on Australian soil now or in the future. It’s a shame, however, that a big bully like Australia can act as a gatekeeper keeping visitors away from places such as Vanuatu to which there is often no other direct access: Australia has not only deprived us of our dream honeymoon, but also Vanuatu of valuable tourism dollars.