Tuvalu News


Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i at Manoa


FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu (April 1999 - Tuvalu Echoes/Edited)---The Tuvalu Maritime School (TMS) has a new Captain Superintendent for the next two years.

He is Captain Tito Tapungao, a Tuvaluan by birth but now a citizen of Australia. Captain Tapungao arrived on the 10th of March 1999 to fill the post of Captain Superintendent, vacated by Captain Ken J. Barnett.

Captain Tapungao and his wife and three children live in Melbourne.

In an interview with the "Tuvalu Echoes," Captain Tapungao said that he obtained his Master Class 1 Certificate of Competency from the Wellington Nautical School New Zealand in 1978. He sailed as Master from 1976 to 1998. All his services as Master were in the offshore industry. He worked in such places as Australia, all the countries of South East Asia and in the Middle East (Persian Gulf and Red Sea).

When asked why he decided to take up this post, Captain Tapungao said that, for one thing, it is the challenge. He also felt that after 33 years in the Maritime Industry, he believed that he could impart some of his experiences for the benefit of the youth of Tuvalu at TMS.

When asked how he feels about TMS, Captain Tapungao said that the school has urgent needs that must be tackled in order to upgrade the school, to fulfill the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended in 1995 (STCW 95 Convention).

TMS, in its endeavors to implement all the requirements of the STCW 95 Convention, has a lot to do, he said, adding that human resources, infrastructure and financial commitments are important factors to be addressed, at the highest level, to bring about effective implementation of STCW 95.

He emphasized that if TMS fails to effectively implement the amendments to STCW 95, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will not permit TMS to be placed on the "White List." This will result in the international shipping industry not recognizing TMS issued certificates.

Captain Superintendent Tapungao said this would certainly affect the employability of the TMS trained seafarers. The repercussion will be devastating and would be felt throughout the Tuvalu community.

The standard of living will go down, he emphasized, warning that school fees for children schooling locally and abroad will not be met, there will be overcrowding due to seafarers returning and, most of all, Tuvalu will be without current foreign exchange capabilities.

He said TMS, with its present staffing component and infrastructure deficiencies, soon will not be able to meet stringent international requirements. The Tuvalu government must make a positive commitment if it wants the Tuvalu Maritime School to last during the next millennium, he emphasized.

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