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International Shipping Services

Papua New Guinea is comparatively well served by international shipping lines mainly in north-south services between Asia and Australasia.

There are approximately 3,000 voyages per year and 300 voyage rotations between PNG, the Australian east coast ports and Asia. The traffic is mainly general/container cargo vessels and bulk carriers for petroleum, mineral and log exports. This equates with approximately 110,000 teu container slots available in the PNG international trade.

The frequencies shown are approximate as intervals and vessels deployed combine in different services over several routes. Several carriers share space share on each other’s vessels and advertise under their own bill of lading (comparable with code sharing on international aviation). Many shipping lines use Brisbane as a hub port where they centralise containers for other Australian and NZ origin ports. Similarly the larger Asian ports such as Singapore are used as hubs for linkages with services to South Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Alliances between international carriers are subject to constant adjustment to suit market conditions.

Up to 2010, none of the PNG ports operated quayside container cranes, and most of the container vessels serving PNG have been self-supporting (ship-mounted cranes). The size of international container vessels is typically between 600 and 1700 teu capacity, 120 to 200m length and 6 to 10m in draught.

Coastal Shipping Services

Coastal shipping in PNG ranges through a wide range and scale of services:

  • International shipping operators who are permitted to carry coastal cargo, trading to main ports;
  • Coastal scheduled (liner) service operators serving main ports;
  • Coastal scheduled and semi-scheduled operators serving main and secondary ports;
  • Specialised operators including bulk carriers, towage and salvage;
  • Project-related coastal shipping;
  • Passenger services and tourist operators;
  • Community-based organisations providing semi-commercial services mostly for their own constituents;
  • Subsidised provincial and border government services;
  • Vessels operating under the CWTP shipping franchise scheme;
  • Operators of small commercial craft providing general goods and passenger services;
  • Small unpowered village boats carrying seasonal agricultural and other rural products and passengers to local ports and market centres.

International cross-over operators: present an emerging trend on the PNG coast. They hold a mixture of restricted and unrestricted permits and offer coastal services between PNG ports of call on their regular international liner routes for carriage of both their own and third party cargo. They include Hub Line (PNG) Limited, MBf Carpenters Shipping (WR Carpenters (PNG) Limited), ANL Container line Limited, Swire Shipping and Sofrana Unilines Limited.

First tier coastal liner shipping companies: three companies provide scheduled (liner) coastal shipping services on primary routes between main ports and hold unrestricted trading licences, carrying containers and break-bulk cargo. They are: Consort Express Lines (now majority Swire owned), Steamships Shipping/Laurabada Shipping (part of the Swire Group) and Bismark Maritime Ltd (which also operates on secondary routes).

Second tier coastal shipping companies: Three operators, holding either unrestricted or restricted trading licences, provide scheduled and semi-scheduled services with some route flexibility to a mix of main and minor ports. They are: Hub Line PNG Ltd, Rabaul Shipping Limited and Lutheran Shipping (Kambang Holdings).

Specialised carriers: A number of mainly regionally-based companies provide shipping services either as part of their own business or to industry as specialised shipping operators on a regular or charter basis. They include petroleum distribution, logging, mining, construction, towage and salvage companies, agricultural product transport and storage, commercial and tourist passenger services. Businesses involved in this activity include: Agmark NGIP, Coconut Oil Production Madang Ltd, Curtain Brothers (PNG) Limited, Golden Shipping Ltd (Rimbunan Hijau - RH), Nivani (PNG) Limited and Perpetual Shipping (PNG) Ltd. There are many more of these coastal operators engaged in logging and construction in regional areas. Some also carry third-party cargoes on a commercial basis where this fits with their core activity.

Project-related coastal shipping: The rise of project-related coastal shipping has been the major contributor to a recent increase in applications for restricted and unrestricted coastal trade permits. Tugs and barges operating under permit shuttle between the anchored ocean carriage vessel(s) in Paia inlet (Gulf of Papua) to Kopi landing. The Government has granted special access to permits for such activity for foreign flag vessels engaged in the LNG project. There are similar examples of project activity that have been given special access to coastal permits in mining exploration and coastally located industrial projects.

Subsidised provincial and NGO sponsored non-commercial organisations: This emerging category provides both passenger and freight services and include the vessels recently introduced by the Border Development Authority (BDA) and operated by their business entity PNG Maritime Transport Limited. In addition, there are several workboats of greater than 10m length built and funded by provincial governments under the direction and oversight of the Department of Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs.

The Community Water Transport Programme (CWTP): is a subsidised franchise shipping scheme designed to provide waterway transport to remote and disadvantaged communities, restore water transport infrastructure, improve small-craft safety, and enable the affected communities to maximize the benefits of the transport provided. By mid-2011, there were four CWTP franchise routes in operation (Sepik, Huon/Oro, New Britain and New Ireland) and with several others in prospect. The difference between the CWTP and the BDA and provincial government services is that the ownership of the vessels lies with the private sector in the case of the CWTP, but lies with Government in the case of BDA and provinces. The CWTP is designed to induce services to small non-commercial ports of calls by offering a contestable top-up payment.

Small boat services: small work boats for the carriage of passengers, agricultural production to market and transportation of essential supplies to and between villages sustains the livelihood and social network of PNG’s coastal communities.

Passenger services: the two main licensed firms engaged in the operation of coastal scheduled passenger services are Rabaul Shipping (Starships PNG) and Lutheran Shipping (Luship). Some vessels have a restricted trading range, typically to sheltered waters but engage on longer port-to-port coastal routes when the weather conditions are suitable. The coastal passenger sector is an industry that delivers essential services to remote locations and communities sustaining social and economic activity.