MV Manus
The sinking pride of Manus. MV Manus. Photography by Matthew Brillante

MV Manus is the pride of Manus and while she lies at Motukea collecting rust we are starting to doubt if she will ever see another route. The cost of overhauling her is too much and her future looks bleak. For those who don’t know about MV Manus, then let me shed some light into her past.

It was 1994, Steven Pokawin was the Premier of Manus, Paliau Lucas was the Assistant Secretary in the Manus Provincial Government and I was a grade four student at Lorengau East Community School when she first berthed at Lorengau’s main wharf with all the hopes and dreams of the Manus people.

The MV Manus vessel was built with the intention of servicing the people. She would be used to transport goods and passengers to and from the vast islands in the province. She would also become a catalyst for economic growth in our maritime province much like the roads in East New Britain did for commercial production of copra and cocoa. She was built with this is mind.

The vessel was built in Freemantle, Perth, Western Australia at the cost of K3 million – a very good investment considering that today it would cost about ten times more. It had a Cummins engine and everything about it was first class. When the construction of the vessel was complete, it was skippered by a Kiwi married to a Rambutso woman, Captain Frank Welsh. The first officer was Micheal Pidi from the Department of Transport (National) and aboard was officer Chanan who would later captain her.

En route to Papua New Guinea, the vessel had complications with its air-conditioning and had to stop at Darwin.

She was bought with a loan from the Australian Export Finance & Insurance Corporation (EFIC) to the Manus provincial government with the guarantee that the national government would settle the debt. The initial stages of the acquiring her had taken place some years before and the Manus government had consulted, among others, Francis Molean from M’buke Island, once ranked the best captain in the Pacific.

Soon after she arrived, so did the elections and I guess the dreams the previous government had with her also went away. It wasn’t long before the Manus Shipping Authority decided that the province did not have the capacity to fully utilise the vessel and hence loaned her to Rabaul Shipping who utilised her for their Rabaul/Buka route. After that she was pimped around to another couple of shipping companies like a common prostitute and I believe could have made good money except that the government (provincial) did not get any.

Over the years she was used like a piece of meat and not once did they bother to carry out any maintenance work on her. Finally when all the heavy work and abuse caught up with her, she just fell apart. To make matter worse was the fact that there was no money to fix her.

Today, she sits at Motukea and slowly rusts. The people who used her have forgotten her. They have sucked the last toea they can and now dispose her like a piece of trash. It won’t be longer before she actually becomes a heap of garbage. Until then we only remember what she meant to us.

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