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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Reef Group Receivership May Affect 10 Pacific Nations
Niue Premier discussing future of shipping service with receivers

By Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 5, 2012) – A number of Pacific countries could be affected economically after Reef Group went into receivership last week.

The company provides services to Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Tonga, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu and Kiribati. It also runs large-scale business ventures in some of the countries.

Tiny Niue Island, with a population of just over 1,000 could be the most vulnerable of the Pacific nations. That is because in addition to owning a noni farm with the Government of Niue, Reef Group is also the exclusive shipping company that provides its monthly freight service.

But there is some confidence that its vulnerability will not be overly tested. One of the receivers, Colin McCloy, remained optimistic.

"We are committed to doing the best we can for the future of the Reef Group, its shipping business and services provided in the South Pacific," he said.

"We will work diligently with relevant parties on the possible business and assets sale of the Reef Group. Yet, in the meantime, it will be business as usual for its employees and contractors across the region."

That positive note has been picked up Niue’s Premier, Toke Talagi who is currently in New Zealand talking with the receivers and Reef Group. He told Radio New Zealand he can’t speculate on the outcome of the meetings at this stage.

"I can’t say anything further than that at this particular point in time.

From what I have read in the newspapers the receivers are keen for the business to continue but we will know more about their plans this afternoon."

This was also the comment by the President for Niue Chamber, Avi Rubin.

"It’s a bit early to comment as our main concern was the ship service to Niue for the near future, and from what we heard its business as normal," he told the New Zealand Pacific.

"Our Premier is in Auckland looking for possible solutions for the long term and the other Reef ventures that involve Niue. We will meet when he gets back and then will have a better idea of what we can expect."

But Mr. Kalauni of Shop Export told the New Zealand Herald he is not overly concerned about the Reef Group impact.

The next Reef ship, the Southern Reef 007 is leaving for Niue this Saturday. A shipping officer at Reef confirmed, "It’s leaving on Saturday morning and should arrive at Niue either on the 15 or 16 December."

He is apprehensive about the company’s situation, "but we hope things will work themselves out alright." Mr. Kalauni remains optimistic. "There are a number of options for Niue and I think we should be alright."

One of the options said Mr. Kalauni, "Perhaps Samoa who now owns the Pacific Forum Line could be convinced to service Niue."

He added: "Maybe they can do it more than once a month?"

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