The Prime Minister of Australia, Hon. Anthony Albanese;
Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and Senior Officers of the RFMF and Fiji Navy;
Senior Government Officials;
Members of the Media Corp;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
I’ve worked on the water since I was a boy. And as a former Naval Officer and Commander, I am very glad to be here to launch the construction of Fiji’s new Maritime Essential Services Centre with Prime Minister Albanese.
Prime Minister, let me also welcome you to Fiji.
Earlier this year in March, I was pleased to officially open the Blackrock Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Camp – another major project aimed at strengthening Fiji’s defense and security, that was only made possible through the support of Australia.
This Maritime Essential Services Centre is set to become a crucial pulse point from which we will be able to better monitor Fijian waters; secure our Blue Economy from internal and external threats and undertake the expansion of our maritime protected areas in our journey towards achieving 100% ocean sustainability – just to name a few.
The Centre will house the Republic of Fiji’s Naval Headquarters, the Fiji Hydrographic Office, the Fiji Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, the Fiji Maritime Fusion Centre, and the 3DP Suva Coastal Radio.
As a Large Ocean State, our ocean is the beating heart of our way of life, our livelihoods, and our society. I am proud to be here at the launch of the construction of a historic project that will help us better protect the beautiful, life-sustaining Blue Highways of our homeland.
As I have said from the UN Ocean Conference, Fiji is investing heavily in our Blue Economy – in which we intend to create 100,000 new jobs by 2050 – more than a tenth of our current population. We recognize fully that any ocean economy depends on a secure ocean above all else.
Centralizing and updating our maritime operations will mean more efficient surveillance of the 1.3 million square kilometers of EEZ overseen by Fiji’s Naval and Maritime Forces – thereby helping us combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and allowing us to progress our Blue Foods-related economic development. We are a sovereign country – all other governments must respect our territorial waters and we look to every available means of support to help us implement the world-leading protection we intend to enforce in our patch of the Pacific. No exploitation, no degradation, no more treating the ocean like a dumping ground or punching bag.
Improved surveillance also translates into more efficient search and rescue operations, improved coastal radio transmissions, more thorough hydrographic survey services, and greater maritime security. Not least of which is the fulfillment of our obligations under various international laws and conventions and regional arrangements.
The creation of the Maritime Centre is estimated to be completed in 2024 and will inject around $56.2 Million Dollars into the Fijian economy, creating more than 445 jobs across the nation. Good blue jobs that are purpose-built for the future every Fijian wants for ourselves and our children and grand-children.
Honourable Albanese, on behalf of the people of Fiji I would like to express our sincere gratitude to our Australian Vuvale for your ongoing support, your efforts towards helping Fiji advance securely and sustainably — and your invaluable friendship.
We are honoured to have you here at the launch of construction and hope to give you a tour of the Centre in 2024.
With those few words, I now officially launch the commencement of the Maritime Essential Services Centre.
Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank you all.