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Super Alia design completed, now comes the hard part — financing the build

With the design of the government’s “super alia” project completed, Commerce Department Director Keniseli Lafaele says a builder of the first super alia could be anyone ready to use the design.

Lafaele, who is also the ASG Shipyard Service Authority board chairman, revealed during his remarks at last week’s ground breaking of the shipyard’s $1 million project that the super alia design is completed and the shipyard can be used to service the new-type of alia vessel in the future.

Asked who will build the first super alia and move this project forward, Lafaele told Samoa News yesterday the builder of the first super alia “can be anyone who’s ready to build, using the completed design.”

“Any boat builder on-island or off-island, hopefully interested parties, will start building before end of this year,” he said adding that the estimated cost to build each super alia is $250,000 to $300,000.

He said Armstrong Consolidated, LLC based in Port Townsend, Washington designed the super alia and it’s the same company that designed and built the ASG ferry-boat Segaula.

The super alia hull length is 38', and overall length is 40' and beam is 14'. Other features include indoor diesel engines, 160 horsepower each, 15 nautical miles per hour max; two tanks of 150 gallons of fuel per tank; 4 berths sleeping quarters, lavatory and shower, dinette; sufficient space for ice and cold storage; and maximum of 7 to 10 days per trip depending on fuel and supplies.

According to Lafaele those interested in building a super alia must have funds or seek funds from banks or investors. However, he said the government, through DOC, is assisting a couple of fishermen or prospective fishermen with their proposals to the government funded Small State Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) program to fund the construction of their super alias or improving existing boats.

On behalf of ASG, the DOC director thanked US Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs for funding the design of the super-alia, and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources for the work done leading up to the design of the super alia conception and rendering.

A report American Samoa submitted early this year during a Council meeting says DOC was also working on identifying a funding source for the development of the super alia fishing vessel, and the government has indicated that up to $10 million from the SSBCI funds will be allocated for construction of this modern alia for local boat owners.

A report American Samoa submitted to the Council meeting last month says that ASG estimated the cost of the fishing-ready boats will be $200,000, and DOC is working with some of the local fishermen to develop business plans and submit applications for those SSBCI funds.

DOC fishery coordinator Tamatoa Tony Langkilde said Saturday during a Samoa News interview at the Fagatogo Market Place that it’s the governor’s vision to try and develop local fisheries, and the super alia is one of the principle projects for such development to help local fishermen.

“With the super alia, fishermen would be able to go further out in fishing grounds,” he said. “Super alia is a safe boat and fishermen can stay out three to five days, or [even] seven days at a time.”

He said the current alia is a “day boat” which is “very unsafe”, because it is an open ended type of vessel and rain and waves can go into the boat and fishermen have to bail out the water.

“Whereas the super alia, it has two engines... it’s safe, it can carry six tons of fish on ice. So they’re bringing in more  [fish] for their work,” Tamatoa explained. “And what we have to do is to create another marketing program where we should be able to market their fish and we’re looking at exporting their fish.”

He said a new facility would be needed to pack fish for export and “this fish — using the super alia — is fresh and quality fish and it’s high-end fish, and would be much more expensive (selling for more money).”

According to the Tamatoa, the new generation of fishermen fishing on a super alia would be trained. “They have to be trained on how to fish on the boat — long-lining and bottom fishing,” he said.

“We have to train them on how to manage the boat, we have to train them on the economics of the boat, we also have to train them on quality control of the fish — when they’re harvesting, when they’re catching the fish and on to the boat,” he explained. “And we have to make sure that they handle the fish properly.”

“So there’s going to be a lot of sustainable programs that the government will create and offer to the fishermen, so that way the local fisheries development will sustain,” he said. “The super alia is the principle project and we have all these sustainable programs to support the super alia in American Samoa’s own design, that will be our fleet and the fleet is going to be standardized — all the boats are going to be the same.”