By HELEN TARAWA
M ATTHEW Lamsing from Malie Island, Lihir, New Ireland is an experienced dinghy operator and entrepreneur who owns four boats.
Growing up on an island community of Lihir where the only form of transportation is boat, which Lamsing learned to operate at an early age and mastered the skill.
Lamsing is married with four children, two boys and the two girls who are twins.
He operates his boats between the Lihir group of islands as well as neighbouring Tabar Island and mainland Namatanai on a passenger rate and hire service.
“I have four boats and each has an operator but when they are hired I step and operate them myself,” Lamsing said of a recent hiring of his boat for a trip to Mahur Island.
“I operate the boats; sometimes the weather is fine other times we encounter rough seas. I take passengers to Lihir town and also to Namatanai and back.
“It takes about one and a half hours from Lhir to Namatanai in good weather and costs about K70 per passenger and for hire it’s over K1,000,” he said.
“For the smaller Lihir group of islands the boat fare is bout K20. For hire it’s about K700 to K800 depending on the distance.
“The trip from Lihir to Tabar and back takes about two hours but during bad weather it takes about seven hours,” he said.
“ I have four boats and each has an operator but when they are hired I step in operate them myself.”
Last Monday (July 29), Lamsing was engaged by Mineral Resource Lihir Capital Limited (MRL) to take its officers and two journalists to Mahur, the last of the Lihir group of islands.
It takes about an hour to travel to Mahur but due to bad weather the trip took two hours.
We departed Lihir at 8am as black clouds were forming beyond the horizon but Lamsing assured us that in his boat we were travelling in was called “Emanuel” God is with us on our journey. It started raining and the sea was rough with winds whipping the salt water into our faces.
Lamsing had bought a new canvas which he used to cover our bags and he advised that we take cover.
Post-Courier reporter Melisha Yafoi and I sat on the seat, a plank of wood put across the boat.
From Lihir we travelled past Malie Island onto Mashaet Island, where a health centre is located.
As an experienced operator, Lamsing knew what was expected ahead of us so he told us to take cover under the canvas because it was going to be a rough ride to Mahur.
True to his word, it was the longest ride with never-ending waves and rain and strong winds beating against the boat and a roller coaster of waves.
As we approached Mahur Island, looking back, Lihir and the rest of the islands were covered in dark clouds.
We arrived at about 10am and got straight to business with the visit to the newly built Makapa St Peter and St Paul’s Primary School classrooms. The purpose of our trip to the island was to see the first ever for Lihir six classrooms in one two-storey building.
The building was funded by MRL with assistance from the local ward member Joe Sitiaman and was built by the local carpenters and parents.
Due to limited space on the small island, the idea was to house all the classrooms in one building and the designers were spot on.
We spent about an hour and a half on Mahur, we interviewed three teachers who were on duty and their board chairman.
After taking same pictures and looking around, we headed back at about 11.30am.
On the return, the weather was calm, the rough seas had subsided and the rain stopped so it took us about an hour.
We thanked Lamsing for our safe journey and hopped out of the boat and got into the waiting vehicles to head back to our accommodation at the Anitua Camp.
When asked about how he felt running a small business on Lihir, Lamsing said it was a good opportunity.
“It’s a good income generation avenue if you are someone who is committed to managing your own business,” Lamsing said.
“I have done well with my four boats and I have plans to buy another bigger boat to ferry people to Namatanai and back.
“I always assist MRL with their trips and I’m happy for what they are doing to assist small operators,” Lamsing said.
MRL chief executive officer Lawrence Rausim said apart from assisting bigger projects like classrooms and health centres they also provided assistance for small to medium entrepreneurs operators like Lamsing.
“It’s a way of empowering them, if we can hire their boats we are adding value to their businesses,” Rausim said.
“We are empowering our small people by giving them an opportunity to do something for themselves to sustain their lives and that of their families and communities.”