News in Brief
Steamships Returns to Bougainville
16 February 2022
Nerakaa oto’oto’ke meriaing (New Spirit, New Deal, New Bougainville)
On Wednesday 16 February 2022 Managing Director Rupert Bray and a delegation from Steamships attended a ceremony in the North Nasioi District to mark the repossession of state lease titles. The ceremony was hosted by the President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and his Ministers to mark the first steps in economic rehabilitation through welcoming back former lease holders in Bougainville, beginning with Steamships.
IMAGE: (LR) ABG Minister for Lands, Physical Planning, Environment and Conservation, Hon. Robert Hamal Sawa, MBHOR; President of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville, Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MBHOR, Member for North Nasioi Constituency & ABG Minister for Finance & Treasury Hon. Mathias Salas, MBHOR, Managing Director Steamships Limited, Rupert Bray, before the ceremony.
Steamships has a long history in Bougainville. With a presence in Kieta before the crisis through hospitality, retail and shipping and during the crisis through our shipping and stevedoring business. Nikana Stevedores is a 50/50 joint venture between Steamships and local Kieta landowners and employs over 75 Bougainvilleans contributing millions of Kina to the local economy every year.
The occasion was significant because Steamships is the first businesses to return to Bougainville following the mandated processes set by the ABG. The full drawdown of all powers and functions for Land Administration in late 2021 from the National Government to the ABG has allowed for Bougainville to fully administer its land titles and provided a way forward for Steamships in Bougainville.
The Steamships project team, led by Group Legal Counsel, Deborah Onga, and on-ground lead consultant Moira Eka, then commenced discussions with the ABG through the President’s Office, the ABG Lands Minister, and the District office and traditional land custodians in North Nasioi, Toniva and Kieta to access and map out existing land assets and a viable plan of rehabilitation.
IMAGE: (LR) Hon. Robert Hamal Sawa, Rupert Bray, Hon. Mathias Salas, President Ishmael Toroama
Recognition must be given to the traditional land custodians in the Kieta District who have respected the rule of law and leaseholder rights. Their mindset was that they were caretakers during and post-crisis. When the subject of repossession and rehabilitation was brought to their chiefs and representatives, they were happy to open communication lines and become active participants in the way forward for their district and set a precedent for the rest of Bougainville. Consultations and open discussions with all stakeholders culminated in a symbolic customary ceremony on Wednesday 16 February attended by the President of the AROB, members of his cabinet, chiefs, and community of North Nasioi, and Steamships.
Managing Director, Rupert Bray, addressed the ABG and the people of North Nasioi, saying that Steamships is committed to the revitalisation of the economy, to help the people of this district and Bougainville realise their economic potential and aspirations of self-sustainability. He expressed his delight in being able to return to Bougainville as a developer and thanked the President and the people of Bougainville for welcoming Steamships so sincerely.
Mr Bray acknowledged the Project Team and the ABG Lands Minister Hon. Hamal Sawa and his team for their efforts thus far, as any form of reconciliation and rehabilitation and recovery takes many different stakeholders to participate in the journey. He reassured President Toroama that Steamships takes its responsibilities seriously and acknowledged that this is the first step in a long journey to realising a vibrant economy.
IMAGE: (LR) President of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville, Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MBHOR & Managing Director Steamships Limited, Rupert Bray in conversation after the planting of coconut trees
President Ishmael Toroama who hosted the ceremony expressed his gratitude to Steamships and welcomed the move to rehabilitate existing leases. “Your confidence in my government gives confidence to other would-be investors and companies who are interested in conducting business on Bougainville,” President Toroama said.
“It signifies that Bougainville has returned to normalcy and we have a conducive business environment that is ready to exploit the various investment opportunities on our resource-rich islands,” President Toroama added.
President Toroama and MD Rupert Bray participated in a symbolic ground-breaking ceremony where His Excellency said 'Graun yu mas kisim bek Steamships' and both gentlemen planted coconut trees to mark the historical occasion.
Steamships has evolved and consolidated since it was last active in Bougainville. From trade and hardware store and shipping into six businesses that span three diverse industries:
- Property, Pacific Palms Property
- Hospitality, Coral Sea Hotels & Enzos
- Transport and Logistics, East West Transport, Consort Express Lines, Pacific Towing, and JV Port Services.