The traditional, fossil fuel-free sailing canoe Okeanos Pohnpei departed last Sept. 20 on a scheduled trip for the mayor of Pingelap, transporting 6,000 lbs of goods and six passengers from Pohnpei to Pingelap.
Upon their arrival into Pingelap, the crew of Okeanos Pohnpei learned that seven people—composed mostly of sick patients including a pregnant women with complications—needed immediate transport to Pohnpei to seek critical medical treatment.
With a swift response, Okeanos Pohnpei took the passengers on board and sailed 160 nautical miles back to Pohnpei within 28 hours, voyaging against the westerly wind while also carrying 2,000 lbs of cargo.
Upon arriving at the Pohnpei dock, an ambulance at the dock took the pregnant patient immediately to the hospital. At that time, the ship was manned by Okeanos Pohnpei captain Clement Urseram and crew members Tyron Jano, Gino Ladore and Delensa Sackryas.
Since its arrival in November 2018, Okeanos Pohnpei has been dedicated to providing sustainable sea transportation to Pohnpei’s neighboring island communities. The 50-foot vaka motu, or “boat for the islands,” is a double-hulled, Pacific sailing canoe designed to run solely on renewable resources: wind, solar energy and coconut biofuel.
Fourteen Micronesian sailors from Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Yap have been trained to safely operate thw Okeanos vaka motus, receiving three months of training at the Okeanos Maritime Training Center in Auckland. Jano, Ladore and Sackryas sailed over 3,000 nautical miles in preparation for their roles aboard Okeanos Pohnpei, which has now serviced over eight outer island communities, including Sapwuahfik, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi, Pingelap, Ngatik, Pakin, and Mwoakilloa.
Okeanos Pohnpei supports the country’s goals for regular, reliable and safe sea transportation between the islands to support adequate health care, education, research, and local food transport. In doing so, the vaka is also used for empowering people and communities, reviving traditional seafaring and navigation skills, and creating local opportunities.
Okeanos Pohnpei and her fully trained Micronesian crew came to Kolonia at the request of Gov. Marcelo Peterson who sought to provide more regular sea transportation to each of Pohnpei’s outer island communities.
“I know Okeanos will play a big and major role in how we provide easy, accessible, reliable and even improved quality of healthcare to the other island populations of Pohnpei,” said Pohnpei state director of Health Kapilly Capelle, who has expressed the difficulties in providing regular health care services to all five of Pohnpei’s outer islands—three of which are inaccessible by plane.
“What I want to tell the world about Okeanos is that the technology is amazing, unique and perceptive to our island settings. We can now get to our islands with or without fuel and then be able to provide the services that we would otherwise have to wait for a year for a cargo ship using fossil fuels. What Okeanos envisioned and is now literally doing for the islands…is a new era and, as far as the Department of Health Services for Pohnpei is concerned, we are fully supportive,” said Capelle.
Last month, FSM President David W. Panuelo sailed aboard Okeanos Pohnpei in support of this alternate form of fossil fuel-free transportation.
“As indigenous people reviving our way of life, we can also show how we can revive this traditional way of [sailing] transportation,” said Panuelo, who hopes to establish tradition-based, fossil fuel-free bus routes throughout FSM using the Okeanos vakas to provide regular, safe and reliable transportation to outer island communities.
There are currently three Okeanos vakas operating in FSM (Okeanos Pohnpei, Okeanos Ambassador and Okeanos Waa’qab) and Panuelo expressed pride in the crew’s professionalism.
To charter a sail with Okeanos Pohnpei, contact operations manager Alan Semens at email@example.com.
Published in Saipan Tribune, 7 October 2019