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Maritime trade is the backbone of Fiji’s economy as imports and exports accounted for 62 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2017.
A project that made Fiji’s ports safer and more efficient has contributed to the country’s economic growth and stability.
The port in the capital city of Suva was upgraded to process larger cargo volumes.
The wharf was also strengthened to ensure it can withstand seismic events.
“In the past, we used to do an average of 18 to 20 vessels, now at this time, we do 25 to 27 vessels per month. Earlier, a truck, which comes to deliver or receive a container takes about an hour, or more; now it is 25 to 30 minutes. So we have improved the truck turnaround time,” says Nabeel Ali, operations manager at Fiji Ports Terminal Ltd.
“In terms of safety, we have done a lot of changes. Basically, earlier they were used to a lot of stakeholders, a lot of people coming inside the port. Now we have minimum customers and consignees coming inside the port and they are being monitored at the entry and the exit points.”
The wharf at Lautoka port, the country’s second trade gateway, was also extended to increase capacity and improve efficiency.
The impact on Fiji’s economy has been remarkable.
“Considering that Fiji population-wise is not a very high growth, is quite stagnant, for us in order to grow the export market becomes very critical. We’re in the middle of this huge, vast ocean, where we rely on imported raw materials and we rely on export to kind of grow,” explains Ram Bajekal, Managing Director of FMF Foods.
“So, it’s a very water and logistics-dependent operation that we have here, which is why something like the ports and shipping becomes critical to our business.”
“There were times in the past when we missed out a shipment just because one single ingredient did not get to us in time. A very small ingredient in a $300,000(US$150,000) order that we were trying to fulfill. So that’s how critical shipping, logistics, and port operations are for us.”
The Asian Development Bank contributed to the project with a US$16.8 million loan.
Fiji’s upgraded ports have brought the country closer to the world markets.
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