A virtual roundtable discussion on the Bina Harbour Tuna Processing Plant Project (BHTPPP) was held at the World Bank Group office in Honiara recently to update partners on the progress of the project and the Ministry of Fisheries forward working plan recently.
Those participated included the Bina Harbour Tuna Processing Plant Project working group and representatives of New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.
MFMR Permanent Secretary, Dr Christain Ramofafia who chaired the meeting, opened the discussion by noting that Solomon Islands Government has designated the BHTPPP a priority national development project.
He further highlighted the mandate given to MFMR in 2015 by the National Government to lead the project, including engagement with potential investors and development partners.
Dr Ramofafia applauded development partners for supporting the project to date, particularly long-term financial and technical support coming from, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the International Finance Corporation, and more recently Australia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The project currently has a strong sense of working together with key stakeholders expressing interest in helping to push this vital project forward”, he said.
The IFC representatives, Milissa Day and Chris Bleakley, joining the discussion virtually from their Sydney office, noted that IFC involved with the project since 2015 when MFMR was first mandated to lead it and that IFC’s ongoing support is framed under a Memorandum of Understanding signed between IFC and MFMR in 2019.
They noted that IFC fully supports the project’s aim of establishing a tuna port at Bina Harbour that can host a second Solomon Islands tuna processing plant at Bina, which would provide thousands of direct and indirect jobs and livelihoods and anchor economic development on Malaita.
Technical and economic feasibility studies conducted by IFC in 2020 determined that the project may be economically and strategically attractive for a vertically integrated tuna operator interested in forging a long-term, mutually beneficial fishing access arrangement with Solomon Islands. In parallel with that study, IFC also commissioned a port infrastructure scoping study aligned to development of a tuna port.
The MFMR Assistant Secretary Project Management, Lisa Sugumanu provided a synopsis of how the Ministry’s Project Management Division is managing the project and highlighted the current and future project work plan. Ms Sugumanu’s presentation was supplemented by Dr Philp Tagini, legal consultant to the BHTPPP who provided an update on land mobilisation at Bina, noting that the long history of issues is now close to resolution and that the Trust Deeds for the key parcels of land is expected to be signed shortly.
The project’s Community Liaison Officer, Julio Aihunu, also provided an update on community awareness activities on water and how it will be sourced for the plant.
BHTPPP Project Manager Peter Cusack in his contribution provided an overview of the rationale behind the project, noting Government’s determination to capture more of the value of Solomon Islands tuna fishery by promoting onshore processing of the tuna catch.
He noted that this determination is reflected in Government’s commitment to establish maritime and shore-side infrastructure at Bina Harbour sufficient to present Bina Harbour as an attractive investment for the global tuna industry.
Mr Cusack noted the great potential that Bina Harbour has as a tuna and new international port adding that technical work is still required to prepare the site for investment presentation.
The collective responses of development partners to these presentations was overall in-principle support for the project and a general commitment to engage in detailed discussions with the Ministry about what roles they might play in supporting its realisation.
With this positive support from development partners, MFMR is determined more than ever to pursue and deliver this national flagship project to the government and people of Solomon Islands./ By John Ice (BHTPPP Communication Officer)