The “stingray ship” and its message for the future

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Alexander Rheeney

There is a strange looking vessel docked at Matautu wharf in Apia, which has raised eyebrows since it entered Samoan waters last Saturday.

Fly over the top of the ship from 20,000 feet and you would think it was a giant stingray flying over the ocean, the solar panels on top of the vessel easily passing for the marine animals’ pectoral fins! 

Welcome to the ship Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO)—as strange as it looks—it is in Samoa as part of a five-year expedition commitment around the world. The ship and its crew are here to share their passion for water/ocean preservation, and to give the public insights on how the vessel is powered by a solar-hydrogen kite. 

The mission of the crew and their futuristic-looking ship would fascinate children, as it would be the stuff of movies. But things did not go according to plan yesterday, when there was a no show from three schools that were slotted into the program to do a tour of the R4WO.

Probably there was miscommunication between the organisers and the schools? We would not be surprised if the educational institutions did not have time, as the tour probably clashed with a school end-of-the-year program. 

But there is so much at stake for the next generation of Samoans—that giving today’s children exposure and insights on the work of not-for-profit organisations such as the R4WO—empowers them and broadens their minds on the challenges that lay ahead. 

Water preservation (and if I could add “conservation”), which lies at the core of the work of the R4WO, will become a major challenge as Pacific Island nations including Samoa continue to feel the increasing impact of climate change. 

The R4WO leaves Samoa on Friday and today will see—hopefully—students from three schools doing a tour of the ship. It is an opportunity not to be missed, which would hopefully educate the public and lead to more awareness in Samoa, on the need to think preservation of the ocean.

The presence of the vessel also puts the spotlight on renewable energy in Samoa and where the Government sits in terms of its energy policy. We note the significant progress that the Samoa has made in that sector, with the Government reportedly declaring in May this year that 60 per cent of the country’s electricity supply comes from renewable energy. Is is understood Samoa currently uses hydro, solar and wind power generators to support input.

And amidst all the debate of late over the “debt-trap diplomacy” controversy and the potential ramifications for Pacific Island nations like Samoa, we forget that China is on target to become the world’s next green superpower. 

According to the trade magazine Business Insider, China was the largest investor in the renewable energy sector, when it poured $126.6 billion into the industry in 2017, which was a 30 per cent increase from the year prior. Its investments in solar have also been massive, China hopes that by 2020 it would be generating 110 gigawatts of solar power, which is enough to light up over 30 million homes. On top of that by 2030, China hopes to increase the amount of energy coming from non-fossil fuels to 20 per cent of the total (from about 13 per cent currently).

It is entirely possible for Samoa to become the first nation in the region to increase the percentage of its electricity supply to 100 per cent, and to enable most of its people to have access to affordable electricity. It can be a dream that achievable in the not too distant future—if there is a concerted effort from every concerned. 

With the Pacific Games scheduled for July 2019, why not make the upcoming games the first in its 56-year history to be run entirely on renewable energy? Not a bad idea showcasing the success of Samoa to athletes, sports administrators and Pacific Island peers.  Again, going all green during the Games, is a prospect that is entirely feasible.

On that note let us not forget our responsibilities to Planet Earth and acknowledge our role as custodians and the responsibilities that we have to ensure that our natural resources get to be enjoyed by our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren. 

Bon voyage to the R4WO crew when they leave our shores on Friday, and we can only hope that the message that they pass on to our children, will have a long-term impact on how they use earth’s precious resources such as water and oceans.

Where do you stand in terms of conservation and preservation of earth’s resources? Have a lovely Wednesday Samoa and God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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