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Manu’a — your new multimillion-dollar vessel is on its way!

Everything is in place on the vessel and it’s safe and certified by the US Coast Guard

American Samoa’s new multimillion dollar vessel for Manu’a is expected to sail into Honolulu this weekend with a tentative arrival in Pago Pago scheduled for the first week of next month, says Port Administration Director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele, who has been in Seattle, Washington for the last two months overseeing the final touches to the MV Manu’atele.

Taimalelagi delivered the update on the ASG vessel during yesterday’s cabinet meeting, which is the last one for the first-four years of the Lolo Administration, which is heading into a new four-year term, upon swearing in at 12noon on Jan. 3, 2017.

The MV Manu’atele is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu late afternoon Saturday, Dec. 24, said Taimalelagi, adding that while there the crew will get rest up with the vessel refueling and taking on supplies before heading to American Samoa.

She gave the estimated date of arrival in Pago Pago as around Jan. 3 or Jan. 4. She also said that she received word yesterday that some American Samoa families in the Aloha State want to ship cargo to the territory on the vessel and this is being worked on with the ASG Office in Hawai’i.

Taimalelagi assured cabinet directors that the new vessel, is excellent, and will be able to carry out its mission — to provide ocean transportation for the Manu’a island group and when the time comes in the future, it can also sail to other Pacific neighboring countries such as Samoa and Tonga.

She acknowledged that there has been a concern over the delay in releasing the vessel to the ASG crew, who has been in Washington State for the past two months. However, she explained it is important that the vessel is able to carry out its mission as well as being able to sail to other Pacific island countries.

Regarding the vessel’s crew, who are ASG employees, Taimalelagi said the crew is strong and have the expertise to sail the vessel to the territory.

Taimalelagi had previously told Samoa News that the crew — while in Washington, where Nichols Brothers shipbuilders constructed it — underwent training and working with the US Coast Guard. Additionally, the six crewmembers have completed the proficiency and survival training, and four have earned the Able Seaman Certificate.

During a cabinet meeting in August this year, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga directed Taimalelagi to make sure that everything is in place on the vessel and not to rush the project, until the vessel is safe and certified by the US Coast Guard.

Speaking at yesterday’s cabinet meting, Lolo said it’s important that all the work needed to be done for the vessel is completed to ensure that the money allocated for the project is well spent, despite any criticism that the vessel was delayed in sailing to the territory.

With the vessel completed, Lolo says the other issue left is for a government plane and he asked Taimalelagi to look into this. It’s unclear if the governor was serious about another ASG plane, as the current one is leased to local-based new-startup Tausani Airline.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the new vessel has an enclosed, air-conditioned area that will seat 120 passengers. The chairs are individual and cushioned. The new boat has a slightly smaller deck space. The equipment on the boat is high-tech computerized.

The vessel construction project is funded with $8.6 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding from the US Interior Department and $5 million in proceeds from the American Samoa Economic Development Authority’s issued bonds.