17 Sep 2009

French Polynesia braces for disrupted shipping services

6:09 pm on 17 September 2009

French Polynesia's shipping companies say they'll stop their service between Tahiti and Moorea from tomorrow morning in protest at a government decision to grant a licence for the foreign-owned King Tamatoa fast ferry.

A spokesman for the shipowners says the four vessels linking the two islands will stay in port indefinitely, a move which will affect the 2,000 commuters.

Their decision came only hours after President Oscar Temaru said the government had unanimously chosen the King Tamatoa bid over a rival local option to service the Leeward islands.

However, Mr Temaru's coalition partner, the To Tatou Aia Party, has contradicted him, saying the decision was not unanimous but arbitrary, irresponsible and one with grave consequences.

The shipowners say another 20 vessels will also stay in port once they are back in Papeete.

Their demand is that the deal for the King Tamatoa be rescinded, claiming the arrival of a foreign rival will spell the end of local shipowners.