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Australia, Fiji launch maritime infrastructure project

Australia, Fiji launch maritime infrastructure project

A new maritime services facility will be developed in Fiji as part of a new infrastructure project funded by the Commonwealth government.

A new maritime services facility will be developed in Fiji as part of a new infrastructure project funded by the Commonwealth government.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Fijian Prime Minister Josaia V Bainimarama have jointly launched an $83 million infrastructure project aimed at enhancing Fiji’s maritime capabilities.

The project, which builds on the previously established Vuvale Partnership, involves the construction of a new Maritime Essential Services Centre (MESC) in Lami, Fiji.

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The MESC is expected to house the Republic of Fiji Navy Headquarters, Suva Radio Coastal Station, Fiji Maritime Surveillance Coordination Centre, and Fiji Hydrographic Office.

Specifically, the infrastructure initiative, tipped to generate 445 jobs, aims to:

  • strengthen natural disaster response capability;
  • protect local fishing industries; and
  • increase naval and coastal rescue capabilities.

The project, to be managed by Icon, is scheduled to be completed in 2024.

Prime Minister Bainimarama welcomed the initiative, noting the benefits for Fiji’s maritime domain awareness.

“This Maritime Essential Services Centre is set to become a crucial pulse point from which we will be able to better monitor Fijian waters; secure our blue economy from internal and external threats and undertake the expansion of our maritime protected areas in our journey towards achieving 100 per cent ocean sustainability just to name a few,” the Prime Minister said.

“…Honourable Albanese, on behalf of the people of Fiji, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to our Australian Vuvale for your ongoing support, your efforts towards helping Fiji advance securely and sustainably  and your invaluable friendship.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the infrastructure project would help Australia build stronger ties with Pacific partners.

“The Maritime Essential Services Centre will play a role in enhancing Fiji’s security and prosperity,” he said.

“It will protect local fishing industries — an issue of great importance to our Pacific neighbours — and deliver cutting-edge hydrographic monitoring facilities.

“Consistent with our commitment to addressing climate change, these essential services will be housed in an environmentally sustainable facility designed to withstand natural disasters.”

The announcement came just days after US Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting, hosted by Prime Minister Bainimarama, announcing a new strategy aimed at deepening US engagement with the region.

The strategy includes:

  • establishing new US Embassies in Kiribati and Tonga;
  • $60 million per year as part of an economic assistance agreement with the Forum Fisheries Agency;
  • the appointment of an inaugural US envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum;
  • designing and releasing the inaugural US National Strategy on the Pacific Islands — a whole-of-government strategy to prioritise the Pacific Islands in American foreign policy and “drive effective implementation”;
  • reintroducing the Peace Corps to the Pacific — volunteers returning to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu;
  • advancing a push to re-establish a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Mission for the Pacific in Suva, Fiji — providing humanitarian and development assistance across the Pacific Islands; and
  • implementing and advancing the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) agreement — cooperating with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to more effectively support Pacific priorities.

The strategy builds on US President Joe Biden’s appointment of a Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations and $350 million in annual US assistance to the Pacific.

[Related: US unveils new Pacific strategy]

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