18 January 2019
In a meeting on Friday, 11 January 2019, Cabinet approved the transfer of the ownership, operations and management of the Tonga Maritime Poly-Technical Institute (TMPI) from the Ministry of Education and Training (MET) to the Friends Islands Shipping Agency (FISA).
TMPI was the approved provider of maritime technical and vocational education and training in Tonga and its training programmes were aimed at meeting the needs of both domestic and international shipping fleets as well as the seafarers. As a result of its training programmes many Tongan seafarers gained employment internationally and locally as deck crew, engineers and as ship captains. TMPI was also able to re-validate and upgrade the Tongan seafarer’s certification.
However, in 2010 TMPI was closed down due to its noncompliance with the requirements of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping (STCW) for seafarers. This came about after an audit of the institution conducted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The major deficiencies that the audit discovered included: Not following the Quality Manual of STCW; Non-compliance of the facilities of TMPI such as the lack of an Assimilator and the lack of Fire-fighting equipment for training and; Shortage of local qualified lecturers to conduct and run the training courses.
As a result of the closure, many Tongan seafarers on both international and local shipping fleets lost their jobs because their certification was no longer re-validated or renewed by TMPI. They then had to resort to maritime institutions in Fiji and New Zealand in order to renew and revalidate their certification which was quite expensive. TMPI on its part tried to revive its training courses by recruiting qualified lecturers from overseas, but this was also an expensive exercise and as a result were infrequent.
The Prime Minister, Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva said, “Cabinet’s decision was difficult but necessary. Our local interisland shipping fleets are suffering because of the lack of qualified seamen. Our local fishing fleets are being forced to recruit crew and fishermen from Indonesia. We are unable to provide certified Tongan crew under agreement for shipping fleets in Europe and other parts of the world because TMPI had been shut down. Cabinet decided that the only way we can revive TMPI is to transfer it from MET to FISA”.
Subsequent to the Cabinet decision, a meeting of the Shared Transport Sector Public Enterprises Board of Directors, which is responsible for FISA operations, designated Dr. Sitiven Halapua, to firstly lead and oversee the transfer of TMPI from MET and secondly, the further development and operation of TMPI as a separate division within the framework of FISA under its Board of Directors.
The Cabinet had also decided that the transfer be carried out immediately and that TMPI should be fully operational one month from the date of the Cabinet decision.
Cabinet also directed that the following related government Ministries, agencies and Public Enterprises work together with Dr. Halapua and FISA to facilitate and implement its decision: Ministry of Education and Training (MET), Ministry of Public Enterprise (MPE), Marine & Ports Division of the Ministry of Infrastructure (MOI), Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and, Ports Authority of Tonga (PAT).
Issued by the: Prime Minister’s Office, P.O. Box 62, Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Tel: (676) 24 644 Fax: (676) 23 888; For media enquires – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.pmo.gov.to