BRISBANE - In 1970 we sold our Vanimo stores and bulk fuel depot to Steamships Trading Company.
Mr Lee, the manager of Steamships Madang, had approached us to negotiate the transaction. He was such a fine person to deal with.
Then, 36 years later, Steamships, by now owned by the British multinational Swire Group of Hong Kong, also purchased our stores at Aitape.
This was a slow and laborious process as any decisions had to be made through head office and they also found it difficult to find a manager who could run our business which was diversified into many small parts.
To make it a simpler operation they got rid of the hardware department, which now had to be shipped from their branches in Madang or Lae.
This was tough for Aitape people as they had nowhere close and convenient to buy building materials and other hardware.
Our Parer organisation had kept a full range of materials for anyone wanting to build a house and we were the agent for all the factories in Lae.
Next, to the amazement of hundreds of customers, the new owners closed the bulk fuel depot and service station.
So Aitape people had nowhere to purchase diesel, petrol, kerosene and oils as there was no other distributor of petroleum products in this important part of the Sepik region.
Admittedly there was no profit in the fuel business as it was price controlled and freight rates had doubled which the price controllers had failed to take into account.
In the major towns where Mobil and Shell had depots there was an agreement whereby one or the other would work out the pricing and present to the price controller.
Then whenever the import price went up or down the new price for every town would appear in the Government Gazette.
Even though Shell had no agent at Aitape, they had been allocated the job of presenting the costs of landing fuel at the town.
They were totally uninterested in getting a fair price for us.
Steamships had had enough clout to force a fair pricing regime. Shell didn’t care.
Life could be tough in those remote PNG rowns.