Tuvalu News


Tuvalu looking at shipping deal

February 29, 2004

One News nzoom.com (New Zealand)

A cash-strapped Pacific island is looking at a multi-million dollar deal with a company linked to a huge drugs haul.

Heroin worth more than $70 million was discovered on a freighter in Australia last year.

Its crew have been charged over the haul, and now the company which owns the vessel wants to take over the tiny nation's shipping registration.

Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. Sea water bubbles up from the ground on high tides, flooding homes and destroying crops.

Economic survival is a priority.

The company that owns the heroin-laden ship says it knew nothing about the crew's alleged activities - but is still under a cloud.

For a fee, any ship would be able to operate under the Tuvalu flag.

ONE News understands the company has promised Tuvalu millions of dollars if they are signed up.

While the island nation is waiting on an Interpol report before making a final decision, it is hardly surprising such a deal would appear attractive.

Tuvalu's isolation and size puts limits on generating revenue. All the land on the main island of Funafuti would fit neatly into the Auckland domain.

Teenagers attend a marine training school, and the money they make on ships overseas makes up the main source of income for Tuvaluan families.

Locals depend on the sea for more than money.

"Most of the families, they just live on new fish, we don't freeze them or sell them we get them fresh out of the sea," resident Sunema Makatui told ONE News.

Tuvaluans blame the rising seawater on industrialised countries. But the people remain strongly committed to preserving their way of life - and they say they will do what they have to to survive.

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