23 September 2016
From the High Commissioner's Desk - White Ships and Grey Ships
After much planning and preparation, next Friday Gizo will receive a visit from the Australia-based cruise ship, Pacific Eden. The ship will also visit Honiara the following day. As regular readers of this column would know, one of my priorities as High Commissioner has been trying to help kick-start the cruise industry in Solomon Islands.
While the country has long received intermittent visits from cruise ships, the Pacific Eden’s visit will mark the beginning of regular, scheduled cruise ship visits to Solomon Islands. It’ll also be the first time a ship of its size (capable of carrying 1,500 passengers) will call at a provincial centre outside Honiara.
I know that the government and people of Western Province have made an enormous effort to ensure that this first visit is successful. I’m confident that it will be, and that we’ll look back on this visit in years to come as the dawn of a new era for tourism in Solomon Islands. Before too long, I hope we’ll see more and more of these huge white ships bringing thousands of tourists to Honiara, Gizo and many other locations throughout the country.
Speaking of ships, many readers would have seen some grey ships belonging to the Royal Australian Navy sailing to and from Honiara over the past week and a half. HMAS Huon and HMAS Diamantina are here to participate in Operation Render Safe 2016, a multi-country operation to help clear unexploded ordnance from the Second World War.
In addition to the Australian ships and personnel, the operation also involves military personnel from New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the US. Operating under Australian command, the 170-plus military personnel are working alongside the RSIPF’s highly skilled Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
Already, the personnel involved in Operation Render Safe have found and ‘rendered safe’ hundreds of shells, bombs and other items of explosive ordnance from Guadalcanal, the Floridas and the Russells. It’s difficult and dangerous work, but it all helps to make Solomon Islands a safer place.
I was delighted last week to welcome my new Deputy High Commissioner, Michael Hassett. One of his main tasks will be coordinating our A$92 million bilateral aid program. It’s a big job, keeping track of all our investments in health, education, infrastructure, agriculture, rural development and so on. But Michael is a very experienced operator and has already thrown himself into the role. If you see Michael around town, please make him feel welcome to the Hapi Isles.
If you happen to be on the road around Tasahe early in the mornings, you might occasionally see me jogging along at a slow and steady pace. Although I’ll be puffing like a steam train and might look like I’m in severe pain, fear not – I’m just in training for the G’day Solomon Islands Fun Run!
This year’s Fun Run will be held on 22 October. Collect a registration form from the Australian High Commission on Mud Alley and register now for a free T-shirt