Shefa revives seaport tax collection

The Shefa Provincial Government Council is this week restarting collection of its seaport tax on ferry passengers travelling in and out of Port Vila.

The collection was suspended due to staff shortages about seven years ago, but the secretary general for the council , Morris Kaloran, says with COVID-19’s economic impact, the council needs to restart revenue raising.

He says the council is charging departing passengers VT100 – a seaport tax aimed at boosting revenue for Shefa Provincial Government services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is still around but people are continuing to travel by ship to other islands so it is a good time to introduce the seaport tax again,” Mr Kaloran said.

“Starting this week, all people travelling out to the islands from the two domestic wharfs in Port Vila, will pay a tax of VT100 before they board the ship,” Mr Kaloran said.

“The tax was introduced in about 2006 and 2007 but was stopped in 2014 because there was not enough staff to collect it.

“We are now looking at helping the province with its revenue collection as the council lost 18 million vatu last year when the Council of Ministers suspended the payment of business license fees [to ease the impact of the pandemic on local businesses].”

VBTC spoke to travellers at one Port Vila wharf who said they were not aware of the seaport tax.

Eddie William, a cargo supervisor with KiwiTrader Shipping’s Kiwi Two vessel, says his company was not aware of the seaport tax.

“The authorities should have let us know of this new change,” Mr William said.

VBTC understands the island of Pentecost began its seaport tax collection earlier this year.

The Shefa council says it lost 18 million vatu in revenue collection in 2020 due to the Government’s suspension of some taxes and payments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council has announced it will also start collecting business licence payments this year as it says it needs the revenue to deliver basic services to the community.

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