6 Jan 2005

Vanuatu says US$9.4m Chinese ships will improve infrastructure

9:19 am on 6 January 2005

Vanuatu hopes two new Chinese ships will bring businesses and people in the island chain closer together.

The vessels are worth a total of nine point four million US dollars and are expected to be built by the end of the year.

One of the ships, to be called Alize Two, will be used to transport passengers and cargo from the centres to remote islands.

The prime minister's spokesman, George Bogiri, says some of Vanuatu's 83 islands hardly ever see boat traffic.

"There are remote islands in Topo province that do not see cacao boats, private cacao vessels in the islands, for, let's say, six months. There are vessels in the west coast of Pentecost, Maewo, and the east coast of Ambrym, the east coast of Tanna and the Tafe islands of Futuna and Aniwa, that ships or private vessels, operating in Vanuatu waters, hardly go to those places, eh."

The government won't say whether the long-proposed agreement had been put on hold until after the downfall of Serge Vohor's government.

Mr Vohor upset Beijing by pursuing diplomatic links with Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province.

George Bogiri, says Mr Vohor had only wanted to continue what his predecessor Edward Natapei had started.

He could not come to one time where he could sign the agreement. But later on, towards his downfall, he had more contacts with the Taiwanese. I cannot say it's because he had this connection with Taiwan, eh.