New Zealand support for emergency response in Fiji

30 April 2018

Emergency response vessels and training provided by New Zealand to Fiji are proving their worth in the wake of two tropical cyclones that hit the island nation this month.

New Zealand provided Fiji with five emergency response vessels last year, funded through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

The largest, a rescue vessel constructed in Christchurch by ICON Custom Boats and named Ai Talai, was delivered in December 2017. The other four were Sealegs amphibious craft. All were provided to Fiji to improve the country’s disaster relief capability.

Radio operators.
Maritime New Zealand © 2019

Following delivery of the vessels, MFAT undertook to provide follow-up training and support to the vessel operators, through its Pacific Maritime Safety Programme (PMSP).

The PMSP delivers maritime safety initiatives in the Pacific. The programme is funded by MFAT and delivered by Maritime NZ.

Pacific Maritime Safety Advisor David Billington said the PMSP team provided training to the Fijian operators in December. Training covered maintenance, vessel operation and health and safety systems.

The training was put to the test this cyclone season after Fiji was hit by two damaging tropical cyclones in the last few weeks.

Cyclone Josie impacted Fiji on 1 April, claiming the lives of five people. This was closely followed by Cyclone Keni, which caused widespread flooding and made landfall on the island of Kadavu on 10 April. Winds caused damage to more than 800 homes, uprooted trees and capsized boats.

Dave said three of the response vessels were deployed on 17 April to support the disaster response, including the Ai Talai and two of the Sealegs vessels. The vessels were operated under direction from the Fiji National Disaster Management Office.

The Ai Talai and the two Sealegs were used to transport assessment teams to and from remote villages around Kadavu. These teams were examining damage made by Cyclone Keni.

The vessels were also used to carry emergency relief supplies such as water, food and building materials.

Mr Billington said the aid vessels had played a critical role in the response and had performed well.

“We’re really glad to see that the support provided to our Fijian partners is contributing to such a positive and tangible impact, and particularly when such crucial services are involved.”

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