(Ms Afasene Iosefa)
The Minister of Communications and Transport Hon. Monise Laafai, officially opened the Funafuti International Airport’s new terminal on Wednesday morning, 28 February at the Vaiaku Falekaupule. The function in fact began with a special service to dedicate the building which was conducted by Rev Penitusi Taeia, the President of the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvau.
Attending the ceremony were government dignitaries, representative from public corporations, non-government organizations, religious bodies and island communities. The Head of State, Governor General, His Excellency Iakoba Taeia Italeli and spouse, government ministers and spouses, the wife of the Speaker to Parliament, Mee O. Tausi, MPs and their wives.
In his opening remarks, Hon. Laafai said: ‘I am truly honored and privileged to stand here as a representative of the Tuvalu Government, to deliver the keynote address for the official opening of the Funafuti International Airport terminal.”
“Before I proceed, I would like to pay my respect to the people of this land – the living and the dead, for the opportunity to use this land for significant development project.”
‘Today’, the Minister said, ‘marks another milestone in the history of our aviation sector.
“In November, last year, we officially became the 192 member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In December, the same year, we witnessed the signing of the Air Service Agreement between Tuvalu and the Republic of Kiribati where we agreed to open our skies for Air Kiribati to start flying to Tuvalu.
I am pleased to announce that Air Kiribati will commence its first commercial flight on 21 March 2018, with two promotional flights preceding that, which have been scheduled to come on 14 and 17 March.”
“Now we are here to witness the opening of our very new airport terminal. Soon we will have a new air control tower building and a better and safer airstrip which are still in progress.”
All these new developments in our aviation sector according to Hon. Laafai, were part and parcel of the Government’s commitments toward improving air service in Tuvalu.
In the aviation industry, he said, such building plays a key role in the smooth and safe movements of passengers and cargoes.
“Indeed, with time is now of the essence to both air service operators and travelers, a well-designed and well-equipped terminal is critically important.”
“For those of us who have had the opportunity to travel to other destinations around the globe, we have witnessed, and sometimes marveled about, the complexity and magnitude of airport operation,”
Hon. Laafai on behalf of the people and the Government of Tuvalu extended his most gratitude to the World Bank, through Mr. Lasse Melgaard, the World Bank Representative for the South Pacific and Country Director for Tuvalu based in Suva, for the extraordinary support in funding the construction of this world standard airport terminal.
In the same vein, the Minister also extended his huge fakafetai lasi (thank you) to the Contractor Reeves International and CCB Envico (JV) through Mr. Brian Oman, the site manager, for the good work and fine workmanship.
“I know that we have had some difficulties during the construction phase due to unforeseen circumstances, but your patience and unwavering commitment has finally paid off,” said Hon. Laafai.
Mr. Lasse Melgaard, the World Bank representative also made a speech at the function. He said “This isn’t just a terminal – it is the gateway to Tuvalu for tourists, seafarers, official visitors and students, all coming and going from this central transport hub.”
“Investment in airports is crucial, not just for function, but also for form, as they are usually the first and last thing visitors see when visiting a country,”
“As we can see, the terminal’s design marries aesthetics, comfort and conformity with all the safety and security standards of a modern airport. All too often the sense of local culture is lost in new infrastructure, so it’s heartening to see elements including colorful walls and timber featuring prominently.”
He went on to say that the terminal is also an example of sustainability and resilience, with its natural ventilation system and an 800,000-liter rainwater tank for times of drought.
Mr. Melgaard also said that additional storage and handling facilities have also been incorporated to enable better response following natural disasters. The complexities of remoteness and the sheer amount of materials required for the building posed a number of challenges, and much blood, sweat and tears went into overcoming the hurdles in creating this travel hub.
In the field of aviation, he said, “I should note that Tuvalu is making headways in other areas as well. We are proud to have supported Tuvalu’s efforts in becoming the newest member in the world of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).”
He said this will provide Tuvalu a voice at international aviation dialogues, and access to ICAO’s guidance and support on aviation policy development, capacity-building, and infrastructure development planning.
Mr. Melgaard also took the opportunity to reaffirm the World Bank’s commitment to working with the Government of Tuvalu to meet development challenges head-on.
“We are partnering with you in outer island development, ICT, aviation, fisheries, energy, and policy reforms to ensure secondary school fees, reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases, strengthen the sustainability of public finances and encouraging a more robust banking sector.”
He also acknowledged the work of each and every Tuvaluan who worked with Reeves/CCB team on the building – you should feel very proud of what you’ve built here.
However, Mr. Brian Oman, the site manager stood on behalf of the project manager of the Contractor Reeves International and CCB Envico JV, to convey his specials thanks to everyone, the workers and the community for their helpful and friendly making the work went well and much easier.
After the speeches, all the invited guests moved to the new terminal to witness the unveiling of the plague by the Hon. Monise Laafai, and the cutting of the ribbon by the Governor General, His Excellency Sir Iakoba Taeia Italeli, the World Bank representative, Mr. Melgaard, and the Acting Prime Minister Hon. Namoliki S Neemia.
Followed after was the handing over of the keys to Hon. Laafai by the site-manager Mr. Oman.
lounges, proper immigration, quarantine and custom clearance facilities, a sick-bay for health service, a space for duty free shop and of course a bigger VIP lounge that could cater large numbers of visiting and out-going dignitaries.
From there, all the invited guests had a tour of the building in which KMT News personnel witnessed all the basic airport facilities that include a more spacious departure and arrival
The new terminal, according to Hon. Laafai, will not be used until two weeks as there are interior decorations and furnishing that need to be done before we could actually start using it.
The A$5.07 million-dollar-project was funded by the World Bank
That same evening, the Chief Guest, the Hon. Minister of Communication and Transport, Monise Laafai hosted a dinner at the Funafut Lagoon Hotel after which there were entertainments of local dancing provided by the community of Funafuti and Nukulaelae yp highlight the night.
Trainees at the Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute looked after the catering
There were three items from each dancing group and then the night was rounded up with speeches from the host of the evening, Hon Monise Laafai and the Acting Prime Minister, Hon Namoliki Sualiki who both thanked the two communities for the wonderful performance.
APPEAL FOR DONATIONS FOR CHURCH BUILDING
The Vaiaku Vaialofa Church Congregation is appealing for donations towards the construction of its new church building. This congregation is a member of the mainline Christian Church in Tuvalu, the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu which is a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the Council for World Mission (CWM)