The King of Tonga, Tupou VI has officially named FISA's newly aquired Niuvakai vessel in Nuku'alofa today.
FISA (Friendly Island Shipping Agency) said the 35 year-old vessel "is a well-maintained and versatile small multi-purpose island supply ship, perfectly fit for transportation of bulk cargo of agricultural produce and bulk livestock in inter-island and outer island services".
It also said, "the required surveys and regulatory procedures to license and certify the vessel was completed by independent surveyors from New Zealand and the Marine and Ports Division of the Ministry of Infrastructure".
MV Niuvākai, which was previously known as MV Theresa and was purchased for about TP$1.5 million will begin service in March, transporting aid equipment and material to the Ha’apai group.
However, the vessel was at the centre of a dispute in 2011 after the Ramanlal brothers, Sosefo and Soane Ramanlal attempted to force the New Zealand's Reef Shipping company off the route so the MV Theresa owned by their Jaws shipping company could solely serve the shipping operations between Vava’u and Auckland.
It has been revealed at the time the ship has no lifting equipment that could lift normal sized containers.
FISA today said, the vessel has an in-built chill/freezer in addition to a Cargo capacity of 660 cubic meters and 274.4 cubic meters (274,440 litres) for bulk cargo fuel (diesel fuel). It can also accommodate 10 farm livestock.
"The name Niuvakai is taken from one of Tonga's longest serving ships in the 1960's that facilitated trade not only domestically but also between Tonga and its neighbours.
"The name is to reflect on the work that the Niuvākai will conduct when it begins service in March".