Off the Wall 16/7/14
On Sunday afternoon, crewed by volunteers and fellow voyagers from Aotearoa New Zealand, Cook Islands and Samoa, the Uto Ni Yalo sailed slowly on a gentle breeze into Laucala Bay. The Uto Ni Yalo is currently berthed USP lower campus jetty as part of the Sustainable Sea Transport Talaona underway this week.
The 2nd International Sustainable Sea Transport in the Pacific Talanoa brings together key stakeholders with an interest in heritage, culture, seafaring, science, vessel design, economics, policy, regulation, and industry to celebrate Oceania’s seafaring heritage and progress planning towards a sustainable seafaring future.
According to the flyer about the Talanoa, “sea transport is the Pacific’s lifeline. Issues of sea transport remain universal and primary, a basic human need of Oceanic peoples today and tomorrow as throughout all past human interaction with the Pacific. The region’s transport issues are unique; tiny economies scattered at the ends of some of the longest transportation routes in the world and arguably the most challenging network to maintain per capita and per sea mile with the resource base available to support it.”
“Sea transport is essential at all levels of society from fishing and local transport needs of small isolated islands and villages to inter-regional shipping needs of nation states. Yet Pacific Islanders once moved at will around the Pacific using only renewable energy-powered vessels.
The economy of our small country continues to face the issue of the high fuel bill, $1.2billion being spent on fossil fuel imports. This includes not only fuel for cars and generators but also for fishing boats and vessels that provide essential transport and cargo links between smaller islands and the bigger islands as well tourism and leisure.
On Monday morning, the Most Rev. Dr. Winston Halapua, Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia, who once sailed on the Uto Ni Yalo from Samoa to Levuka as a crew member, made a presentation on the Lotu in the context of the Moana, referring to the spirituality of the ocean.
“Lotu is an ancient Oceanic word acknowledging the ‘bigger picture’. It is bigger than all our contributions and offering of presentations,” said Archbishop Halapua.
“I ask of our talanoa, does it add life?”
Archbishop Halapua called for Oceania to listen to the “conchshell blowing to launch a new vaka… to enter the unknown.”
“There are five oceans, but our ancestors only knew one moana – full of mystery, depth – a diverse gift of God, full of life. Abuse of the moana is abuse of the planet.”
Reminding those gathered that humans are only on species on this planet, Archbishop Halapua called on people of the Pacific to embrace their roles as custodians of the moana, which “connects us” and “embraces the planet”.
“You are meeting and having important talanoa. But the time for talanoa alone is over. It is now time for action. We talk while we work. We need something new to come out of this talanoa.”
Later on Monday afternoon, at an informal talanoa, Archbishop Halapua suggested what kind of action and work was needed to be done, calling for Pacific States to commit to sustainable sea transport.
“If we are serious about reducing fuel costs, can we not commit to building 25 more vaka like the Uto Ni Yalo to show our commitment to sustainable sea transport in our countries?”
Last year, Methodist Church in Fiji General Secretary, Rev. Tevita Nawadra Banivanua said that from an environmental perspective, the wind and paddle-powered canoes were more in line with good stewardship of nature as opposed to fossil-fuel powered engines.
“For the outer islands of Lau and Yasawa, the takia and drua may be a good option for inter-island transport and perhaps the be one of the solutions to the difficulties faced in inter-island shipping.”
“The traditional design of Fiji and the Pacific’s canoes now adopted by modern boat designers, shows the wisdom of the ancient methods of boatbuilding. It saves energy, saves money and may even be safer for travel as the outrigger on the takia or double hull of the drua may provide stabilisation.”
In the last 5 years, the Uto Ni Yalo, has travelled over 27,000 nautical miles or ~50,000 kms, which is more than once around the earth, bridging ancestral wisdom and renewable energy, telling a universal story of hope and symbolising the journey to find solutions to our planet’s energy and climate change issues.
Earlier this year, the Uto Ni Yalo was gifted to the people of Fiji, under the guardianship of the Uto Ni Yalo Trust.
Two weeks ago, the Uto Ni Yalo became the first voyaging canoe to officially join the flotilla of traditionally sailed drua to take the ‘Pacific One Voice’ to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Parks Congress in Sydney in November. Other Oceanic voyaging societies are set to commit to this voyage.
Fiji has already benefited directly from the work of the Uto ni Yalo over the past 5 years as one of the lead canoes of the voyages that we have undertaken. Its impact on communities throughout Fiji and the world has seen the Uto ni Yalo contribute to Fiji’s cultural and environmental tourism campaigns.
The Uto Ni Yalo is a practical example of the sustainable sea transport option available to Fiji.
For those who live and work in Suva, the Uto ni Yalo awaits your visit. For the people of Fiji, a davui is blowing, inviting you to set sail and journey as a nation and part of an ocean people to a future where fleets of sustainable, traditionally designed ships travel across the moana, carrying more than just people and cargo, but hope, life, wisdom and peace.
Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”