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Nicon Shipyard owner explains status of business in Vanuatu

Owner of Nicon Shipyard on Espiritu Santo Mr. Nigel Giltrap has responded to conjecture that he closed the doors of his business and made staff redundant due to a proposed new slipway development on the island.

The Government of Vanuatu last week announced a South Korean funded loan and grant package to enhance shipping and ship maintenance infrastructure in Vanuatu which includes the funding of a new 1000 tonne slipway.

Mr Giltrap states that he has been evaluating the direction of his business for some time now and analysis of the market he has been servicing shows it is not worth pursuing any more. The new slipway was also a contributing factor “, initially our investment path was stifled because we had the government calling for a competing slipway so we retarded our development taking a ‘wait and see approach”.

“The current client base is a disaster, they can’t manage their maintenance budgets, they can’t even arrive at the slipway on time, they are of insufficient net worth to raise capital from the banks, really who would want them?”

Responding to accusations that his prices are too high, Mr Giltrap states that he agrees. With a major cost component of out of water ship repair being paint, he cites the current duty rate of paint imported into Vanuatu at 30% as being a major factor in his business struggling to be competitive at a regional level. Vessels currently travelling to Fiji for out of water maintenance are able to have duty and VAT refunded on all paint and materials. This, combined with access to duty free fuel upon departure and lower labour rates, has made Fiji an attractive option for Vanuatu ship operators.

Mr Giltrap also levels some blame at some government departments’ inaction as a factor in his decision. “We have owned the Slipway for 3 years and in this time we have had no visits from Ports and Harbours, MIPU or VIPA. We are continually reading reports of how the government criticises our operation and how Government wants to build its own facility.”
LoopVanuatu: Photo supplied Peter Wederell
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