Samoa and Tokelau Cross International Date Line

Posted December 30th, 2011 at 7:45 am (UTC-5)
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The tiny Pacific island nation of Samoa and nearby atolls of New Zealand-administered Tokelau are skipping Friday this year and moving from Thursday straight to Saturday to align themselves with their trading partners in the region.

At the stroke of midnight , the islands reverse a 120-year-old policy of being east of the International Date Line, and move west of the line.

For Samoa's 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 in Tokelau, Friday, December 30, 2011 will simply cease to exist.

Officials say the jump forward in time corrects a calendar problem that kept Samoa on Sunday, while its trading partners were conducting business Monday. Likewise, when Samoans were working Friday, it was Saturday further west.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi says the change will help Samoan commerce.

“There are many individual businessmen who have indicated to me that the move is very, very beneficial for their business.”

The current time zone was agreed in 1892. U.S. traders persuaded local Samoan authorities to align their islands' time with nearby U.S.-controlled American Samoa and the United States to assist their trading with California.

Samoan reporter Autagavaia Tipi says the return to Samoa's original position on the International Date Line is also a good business move.

“The government felt that in the new millennium we're making a lot of business with New Zealand and Australia and also Japan and China. Very little business with the United States. So I think it's about the right time for us to move to the original side that we were of the International Date Line.”

The date line drawn by map-makers is not mandated by any international body. By tradition, it runs roughly through the 180-degree line of longitude, but it zigzags to accommodate the choices of Pacific nations on how to align their calendars.

Sio Sauni, a Samoan expatriate living in New Zealand, says there will be less confusion after the change.

“It's pretty good, so, you know, it'll stop the confusion now, you know, the time over there and the time over here.”

For Samoa, it is the second significant economic modernizing move in recent years, following its switch to driving on the left side of the country's roads in 2009.