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By ARIETA VAKASUKAWAQA
The Consumer Council of Fiji is calling people in the maritime provinces to raise their concerns during the review of interisland shipping services and the charges for them.
A statement from the council’s chief executive officer, Premila Kumar, said it was vital that islanders made submissions to the Fiji Commerce Commission.
“The council has been receiving complaints against shipping companies for poor service delivery and these include passengers stranded despite holding valid tickets, overloaded ships,” Mrs Kumar said.
“The shipping service is extremely important for maritime provinces because this is the only means of transportation for many of them.
“These services are also essential for sustaining the livelihoods of the people residing in outer islands.
“Consumers in outer islands are dependent on shipping services to transport produce such as dalo and copra and to receive essential food items from the mainland.”
Unfortunately, she said inconsistent shipping services had contributed to the rise in the price of goods in the maritime zone and consumers were again at a loss.
She said the prices on basic food items like flour, sugar, soap and kerosene were increased.
Government had taken into consideration these inconsistencies and had re-advertised the tender for the Government franchise scheme.
Goundar Shipping Services owner George Goundar told Fiji Sun earlier that he welcomed Government’s move to review fares and freight charges, saying it was “long overdue”.
Despite the continued increases in the price of fuel, Mr Goundar said fares for buses and taxis were increased, except for shipping.
Mr Goundar also called on Government to consider their plea to review the fares according to the standard of their services.
The Government had earlier stated the importance of travelling by sea for many of the islanders, to which Mr Goundar agreed saying it was vital that a study should be undertaken.
The consumer watchdog will also make its submission to the Fiji Commerce Commission and is encouraging consumers to come forward with their concerns, suggestions and recommendations.
“As the comprehensive study is being undertaken by Fiji Commerce Commission, the council is hopeful to see positive changes in the maritime service that was long overdue,” Mrs Kumar said.
The last review was undertaken in 1992.