Fiji, Savusavu: Theft and Burglaries Cause Concern for Cruisers

Recent reports of theft and burglary from yachts moored in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji, are a timely reminder to cruisers to keep themselves and their belongings as safe and secure as possible.

Published 3 months ago

Grant McNamara from New Zealand keeps his yacht in Savusavu, Fiji, and spoke with Noonsite about his concerns over the increase in security incidents against yachts there.

“The area is less safe than some would have people believe and is a bit of a concern as the majority of the cruisers who come to this area are elderly. Unfortunately, theft from moored yachts here is much more common now than it has been.

“Previously it was only a problem with moored yachts with absent owners, especially if the owner left Fiji  to return ‘home’ for the Fiji cyclone season. It’s easy to ‘pick’ the empty yachts as all moorings are visible from Savusavu town. However, recently (September/October 2023) there’s been a change and we’ve had pirates boarding moored boats while the owners are onboard asleep. When owners have awoken, there have been physical confrontations. Unfortunately one of these incidents involved the serious sexual assault of an 83 year old cruiser on his yacht. A few weeks ago even a super yacht moored at a marina had had items stolen,” Grant told Noonsite.

“Most thefts aren’t reported to anyone. But those that are, at least to my knowledge, are direct to the Police. The station and Police College are right across the road from my marina. They write it all down and sometimes visit boats to check for and take finger prints.”

For many years Savusavu had a wonderful resident liveaboard called “Curlie” who ran a Savusavu VHF Cruisers Net every morning for a couple of decades. Sadly Curly died a couple of years ago and no one has taken his place as a central cruiser contact. Other than Facebook groups plus meeting up ashore to swap stories, there’s no regular way for cruisers to raise issues or call for help, an increasing problem for cruisers in this digital age.

Grant explains more; “Most of the boats in Savusavu are on moorings, while the majority of security guys are all shore based.  They have little sheds to sit in so they can’t really help moored yachts quickly.  However, those I’ve met have always been super polite and very helpful.

“Thankfully, several weeks ago we learned that a 26 year old male was arrested for burglary from yachts, which was confirmed by the Police. The word on the street is that he was caught trying to sell items, as Police recovered a number of stolen items that were taken from yachts. Unfortunately drugs have found their way into the country – in particular methamphetamine – which is causing some major problems.”

Grant reports that police visibility and patrols on land have increased, but use of their Patrol Boat remains minimal as it is not fitted with lights to be out after dark and it does not have onboard VHF. However, the damaged propellor has been repaired, or replaced, so it is usable. Grant does wonder though if “the Increased Police visibility might have just coincided with a cruise ship visit and also a visit by the Prime Minister and Cabinet for a few days of meetings at Hot Springs Hotel.”

Waitui Marina has put up prominently displayed posters warning boat owners that theft has been occurring and to take extra care to lock their boats. These are at the entrance to the dinghy dock and hard to miss. Grant reports that most of the yachties in Savusavu are being much more careful and watching out for each other.

Noonsite contacted Sheena Hughes from Nawi Island Marina who confirmed that there have been a number of security incidents in the Savusavu Area in the last few weeks. These occurred at the Waitui Marina and Savusavu Marina moorings.

“Its been an unfortunate series of events and our marina (staff & security) team have been quick to lend a hand and any assistance to these Marinas. In fact, two of the affected yachts immediately moved over to the Nawi Marina soon after, resulting in a safe and secure berth/mooring for the rest of their stay in Savusavu. As a newly-opened marina Nawi takes safety and security very seriously, so we are always happy to hear how we can mitigate any/all risks and/or threats to our visitors.”

Viki Moore from Island Cruising NZ who organises regular rallies to Fiji said that Savusavu does get a bit rowdy at the weekends when all the workers come in from the plantations and go a little wild in the bars, “but I’ve been there a few times now and didn’t feel unsafe.”

“The moorings are quite open and close to the town with little security so it would be quite easy for people to access or swim out to get to those boats. My understanding is that the recent issues were one-off incidents rather than a huge problem.”

Grant told Noonsite that by the time he left Savusavu last week, the “crime wave” had ceased because most cruisers had left for the cyclone season.

“Before leaving for New Zealand I took a run through the harbour and there were only three boats on moorings of Waitui and Copra Shed. The harbour is empty. Normally we’d expect to see 20 or more boats here.”


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.


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