MV Betsy Ross comes to ‘life’

MV Betsy Ross is alive. Photo: OMR

MV Betsy Ross has come to 'life' again, after three years of silence.

In February this year, MV Betsy Ross made headlines in the Daily Post following investigations undertaken by officers of the Office of the Maritime Regulator (OMR) in relation to the vessel's condition and status.

The investigation was instigated after the OMR noticed that the vessel has been anchored in the Port Vila Harbour for years without any sign of operation.

Investigations affirmed it was a 'dead' vessel. It had no proper master or crew to man the vessel while berthing in the harbour.

The registration and transfer of the vessel to the new owner in 2017 was not complete as well as required by the Shipping Act [CAP 53].

Between February and April 2018, OMR ordered the vessel to be properly registered to the new owner at the time under the Maritime Sector Regulatory Act No. 26 of 2016.

There are conditions set by the Acting Regulator that time as well, to ensure the vessel is properly manned or removed from the Port Vila Harbour as it pose a greater risk to the marine environment. The ultimatum is for the vessel to be seized by OMR and disposed if no action taken at that time or if no one is interested to buy the vessel.

Following its publication in the Daily Post early this year, a few individuals showed their interest in purchasing the vessel, given its historical importance and potential attraction for tourism and war museum collections.

By April this year, the vessel's then owner, Mr. Sandy Kalo complied with OMR's instruction and sorted out all the vessel's documents. 

Kalo negotiated with a few potential buyers from New Caledonia and Vanuatu for the purchase of the vessel. A local businessman in Vanuatu, Mr. Christian Cranois bought the vessel in July 2018.

The OMR transferred the registration of the vessel to the new owner and set the conditions, including the safe removal of the vessel before the cyclone season starts in November.

Cranois, the new owner of Betsy Ross has worked around the clock to repair and fix the main engine and generator of the vessel. The vessel anchor was also fixed given it was stationed 60 meters on the seabed for the past three years.

According to Cranois, MV Betsy Ross is expected to be removed from the quarantine bay before end of September or before the cyclone season begins in November, and sail to Fiji for dry docking and further repair works.

"After a month of fixing the engine and other parts of the vessel, the vessel engine finally came to life. The engineers conduct a short test run in the harbour," a smiling Cranois said.

The future of MV Betsy Ross is looking bright as the new owner is aiming to turn the vessel into a floating restaurant or bar and or a museum, which will add to another tourism attraction for Vanuatu.

Maritime Regulator, Arthur Faerua is pleased with the cooperation between the previous owner and new owner in taking up the responsibility to invest into Betsy Ross, have the vessel fixed and removed it from the current location.

OMR has noted that this is a millstone given that no actions were taken against the vessel and the owner until such time it intervened and investigated the matter.

It will continue to work closely with the current owner and relevant agencies such as Department of Ports and Marine to ensure the vessel get assistance and cleared before it sails to Fiji for major maintenance.

It will also ensure the vessel will undergo final inspection and survey before an authorisation can be made for the vessel to sail to Fiji later this year.

The OMR is the independent regulatory body of the Government established by the Maritime Sector Regulatory Act 2016 responsible for vessel safety and maritime sector of Vanuatu.

Anyone who has further queries on shipping safety or maritime sector as a whole can visit the OMR at Nambatu, call 35445 or email enquiries@omr.vu

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