PNG’s Pacific Towing on track and expanding in Fiji

By: PNG Business News June 18, 2019

Pacific Towing has become the first business in the Steamships Group to set up in Fiji and is on track to successfully complete its first major project in Fiji since registering a new business last November.

Based at the main wharf in Suva, Pacific Towing’s newest business employs four Papua New Guinean divers and six Fijian locals.

The team of divers, engineers, welders and a crane operator is characterised by a raft of diverse skills and is presently engaged in the wreck retrieval of the container ship ‘Southern Phoenix’ which capsized and sank in Suva Harbour, Fiji on 6th May 2017.

Pacific Towing commenced the multi-stage retrieval of the 88 metre long vessel in November 2018 and was expected to complete the project by May 2019. Wreck retrieval can be technically challenging and high risk.

“Safety of our staff as well as safety of the reef is critical for the Southern Phoenix project and a lot of careful planning is necessary - but of course these plans mean nothing when unexpected bad weather picks up” explains Marine Operations Manager, Camara Geita.

He stresses that this is just one reason having Fiji staff is so important to ensuring projects stay on schedule as “no one knows Fiji’s waterways, reefs and weather patterns like the locals do.” Although local knowledge will be a key ingredient to Pacific Towing’s success in Fiji, so too will be an investment in training.

Pacific Towing staff benefit from training in numerous countries including Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Denmark, Qatar and Australia.

General Manager, Neil Papenfus, reports that in 2018 his staff received an average of 377 hours of training each. He sees no reason to do things differently in Fiji and one of the local divers there is confirmed to travel to Australia mid-year where he will complete his commercial dive training to ‘Commercial Diver Level 1’.

“Just like we have in PNG” says Papenfus “we will grow our Fiji business as we grow our people and we will make sure that the majority of our Fiji team are locals.”

Papenfus is also adamant that female employees will play an important role in the Fiji business.

Papenfus is a known advocate for the employment, development and promotion of women.

He introduced Pacific Towing’s ‘Women’s Maritime Scholarship’ program in 2017 and is a long-term director of the PNG Business Coalition for Women.

When asked about other business opportunities for Pacific Towing in Fiji. Papenfus, confirmed that he is not just pursuing wreck retrieval contracts.

“We are experienced in towage, salvage, mooring and commercial diving, as well as life raft servicing and sales so it makes good sense to take this experience to Fiji too” says Papenfus.

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