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The following article is intended to create awareness amongst the general public about the current Community Water Transport Project

The project is currently being implemented by the National Government through the Department of Transport as the Executing Agency. It also aims to create awareness about its aims and objectives, and about the scope of the project that is design to achieve better rural maritime transport service and therefore improving the livelihood of the people in the project affected areas.

As a background, the National Government borrowed SDR19.6 million (K78.40m) in 2004 from the Asian Development Bank and US$4.00 million (K11.24m) from Overseas Petroleum Countries for the Community Water Transport Project, and at the same time the National Government is obligated under the Loan Agreements to provide counterpart funding annually over the life of the project. The aim of the project is to alleviate poverty in terms of transport access to markets by rural maritime communities in the thirteen maritime provinces of PNG. The project is a of the national government’s maritime transport reform program which was preceded by the creation of the National Maritime Safety Authority, the Rehabilitation of the Maritime Navigational Aid Systems Project and the Recompilation of the Maritime Navigational Charts, all of which are components of the maritime transport reform program of the National Government.

The Community Water Transport Project has the objective of directly reducing poverty in marginalised and remote maritime and river based communities by financing a catalytic , temporary subsidy where cash income generated by rural maritime dwellers do not support regular and affordable transport services, and promotes effective sector governance through supporting the capitalisation of the National Maritime Safety Authority .

The project scope therefore includes establishing the Community Water Trust Fund to finance the required water transport subsidy, restoring water transport infrastructures such as small jetties, improving small craft safety, and promoting maritime rural development through shipping service awareness, training workshops and community profiling.

Papua New Guinea’s population of over 6 million is one of the most isolated in the world. Four out of five live in rugged mountainous or coastal terrain, many without even rudimentary access.About one third of the people live more than 10 kilometers from a national road and 17 percent have no access to any road at all.

Vanmak Tory Shipping Vessel

Most of the 6,500 km of coastline in the Maritime Provinces is accessible only by sea. Elsewhere, particularly along the Sepik, Fly and Ramu rivers, communities can only be reached by transport as basic as dugout canoes and dinghies. Roads, where they exist, are poorly maintained and provide unreliable, infrequent, high-cost road transport services. Private sector shipping companies are unwilling to go to those places without assurance of making a reasonable profit.

The World Bank considers that “PNG faces challenges unlike any other country in the region. Deteriorating accessibility for life in rural communities shows up in lower standards of health and education, declining availability of goods and services, and high-cost and unreliable transport services. Whereas in the past people could carry a basket of vegetables or bag of coffee for market to the nearest road-head knowing that a transport service would be available there, now risk finding none with the result that their produce will go to spoil. Sick people can no longer be sure of getting to a clinic or hospital, and the medical services available there have deteriorated too, partly due to the increased costs of transport”.

Realizing that availability of lower cost transport services could help rural communities develop markets elsewhere, and provide a stimulus for farmers to grow and sell more produce as well give an opportunity for children to attend schools and for teachers to travel to remote communities, the Government of PNG decided to invest in subsidized transport by water to remote communities. So, in June 2009 using the interest from a trust fund set up with money borrowed from the Asian Development Bank and OPEC, together with GoPNG funds, the Department of Transport (Community Water Transport Project – CWTP) contracted out a pilot shipping franchise for monthly service from Wewak to communities on the Sepik River upstream as far as Ambunti. This fledgling service has been provided by Lutheran Shipping which receives a subsidy to make up the shortfall between commercially viable tariffs and rates that are considered acceptable to the public. The scheme is intended to eventually provide a self sustaining service. The present contract will run for three years, expiring in 2012.

Following the Sepik River pilot project, the Community Water Transport Project established three more shipping franchise routes, providing service along the Huon Coast of Morobe Province and Oro Province between Lae and Gona; along the South East Coast of New Ireland between Rabaul and Muliama; and along the South Coast of East and West New Britain from Rabaul to Kandrian. The Huon-Oro service, which commenced in December 2009, is provided by Lutheran Shipping’s motor vessel “Siddy”, whereas the New Ireland and New Britain services use Vanmak Shipping’s mv “Vanmak Toby” a 97 tonnes passenger/cargo ro-ro vessel capable of carrying 41 tonnes of cargo and up to 156 passengers. These latter franchise routes started up in September 2010.

The four shipping franchises together have now carried over one thousand five hundred tons of cargo and over five thousand passengers, which may not seem a lot to some, but to those who are using the services they are a passage to a better future.


The project has embarked upon a program of construction of 40 jetties and pontoons. This is the first phase in a broader program of jetty construction of 200 jetties agreed upon by the NEC in 2008. The jetties are designed to be suitable for work boats and banana boats. They will contribute to vessel safety and efficiency by eliminating the need for unsafe cargo lightering off the side of the vessel.
The costs of the program are being reduced by using a limited number of standardized designs. The jetties are designed to be robust with relatively low maintenance requirements.

The first 40 jetties will be built in East Sepik, Manus, New Ireland, East New Britain, West New Britain and Morobe provinces. The infrastructure design was undertaken in 2009 and early 2010 and the first tender was launched in May 2010. Negotiations are currently underway with the preferred bidder. Construction is planned for the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012.

Maintenance of the structures will be carried out by suitably qualified local contractors, under the supervision of the Maritime Division of the Department of Transport.


The Small Craft Safety (SCS) component of the project was charged with developing safety initiatives for small craft with the specific aim of reducing casualties incurred by frequent boating accidents, many of which have resulted in preventable and multiple loss of lives to young and old alike.

Some of the initiatives being undertaken by the SCS component in conjunction with the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) are described below, in no particular order.

  • Small Craft Safety Bill: Assistance and Technical input in drafting of the “Small Craft Safety Bill” and particularly the Technical and Safety Equipment Schedules annexed to the Small Craft Safety Bill. This component is still ongoing.
  • Publications: Small Craft Safety: The CWTP Small Craft Safety component has also been working in conjunction with the NMSA in developing and assisting with the production of boating safety publications, safety posters and brochures of various types all related to promoting safety awareness, not only for boat owners and operators but also for the travelling public who generally suffer the highest loss of life in boating accidents. One of the major boating safety publications developed is “Basic Boating Safety in PNG Waters” which is in full colour. Also included as one of the publications is a laminated shirt pocket size card with a chart giving fuel consumption figures for trips of varying duration and common types of outboard engines in PNG. This should help prevent boats from going adrift for lack of fuel.
  • Safety Awareness Programs: NMSA/CWTP have collaborated in development of a series of Safety Awareness Presentations, generally these are presented at cultural gatherings where it is possible to reach large numbers of the boat travelling public from the surrounding region. Safety publications are distributed freely along with slide and video presentations on safe boating practices. Schools in coastal and inland waterway regions are also targeted by these awareness programs, this helps spread the boating safety message even further than just adult audiences. This program has been successful in reaching large numbers of people during its operations over the last 2 years, the program continues.
  • Small Craft Information/Registry System: The CWTP and NMSA are creating a small craft information and registry system that will be administered by the Provinces with reporting to NMSA who will maintain a central database of all small craft. The database will have utility for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations when boats are reported missing.
  • Regional Co-operation: The NMSA assisted by CWTP have been able to establish contact with and cooperate with other South Pacific groups involved in Small Craft Sea Safety, specifically the Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC) based in New Caledonia and SAR operations based in Fiji. Other benefits of this cooperation are access to and sharing of Boat Safety publications and materials between NMSA / CWTP and SPC who have considerable experience over many years in Small Craft Safety issues in the South Pacific that can be availed of by PNG. cwtp03
  • School Curriculum for Water Safety: In conjunction with the Department of Education PNG the CWTP and NMSA have been working with the Curriculum Development and Assessment Division (CDAD) in the production of a Teachers Resource Book (TRB) for the subject of Small Boat Water Safety to be used in Elementary and Primary schools nationwide for instruction of young children. This initiative is anticipated to have long term effect on acceptance of Boating Safety Regulations. The book is to be printed and distributed to schools in 2011.
  • Technical Training, Fibreglass: In order to address the large numbers of fibreglass small craft in PNG that are being used without adequate built in positive floatation, and other craft that are damaged but repairable. The project is working with the Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) Division of Dept. Ed. PNG to provide Train the Trainers courses for Instructors from several Vocational and Technical Schools. Courses are both of “hands on” practical and theory based. In learning the techniques of Fibreglass Repair & Maintenance the participants will also learn how to install extra buoyancy chambers in existing GRP boats to keep them in “level floatation” when swamped with the standard engine attached. This will be a requirement when the Small Craft Safety Bill becomes law. Repairs to damaged boats will also have the effect of prolonging useful life span of many damaged boats. Economically benefits will also be apparent when damaged boats are repaired rather than replaced with new boats. Some support will be provided to schools in the form of tools, safety equipment and materials to keep courses operational after the initial training.
  • Marine VHF Radio System: To enhance the safety of boat travel in PNG waters the CWTP / DoT is installing a Marine VHF Radio system with extensive coverage of PNG waters. This system will allow small craft equipped with portable or fixed VHF radios that find themselves in difficulty, to communicate with shore bases by relay and / or with other vessels in the area that are similarly equipped. Bids for this system have been received and installation of the system is anticipated to be complete by early 2012. NMSA are to assume responsibility for maintenance of the system after warranty period for last installation has closed.

Photos or printed Boating Safety materials are available for inclusion in articles that may be published.

The Community Development (CD) component works along the impact goal of the project, which is ‘Inclusive growth: Increased economic opportunities with better access to social services for members of marginalized maritime and river-based communities within the project affected area.’

Our main focus is to build capacity for communities to identify available resources and to take part in planning, initiating and implementing micro-scale projects that are directly linked to the new transport services. Our approach is participatory, mainstreaming gender balance and involving different government and non-government organisations in our activities.

We are serving more than 40 communities in different geographical areas (ESP, NIP, Huon/Oro, WENB) with a team of one international development and five national development specialists.

The programme of CD has two main components:

  1. Conduct field research surveys along all franchise routes
  2. Build capacity in target communities to improve standard of living

cwtp6Field surveys were done to collect data for analysing transport behaviour of people along the routes, to identify dinghy prices for passengers and cargo and to collect baseline data on the socio-economic status of villagers.A questionnaire was designed for semi-structured interviews and translated into Pidgin.

Apart from individual interviews short community meetings were organised by the councillors, where the team could introduce itself and the purpose of the survey. The same time community members could express their opinion about the shipping service and do recommendations.

The team conducted surveys along the Huon/gulf coast, interviewed villagers along the south east coast of New Ireland Province and south coast from West and East New Britain. Alone in 18 communities 741 interviews were conducted. The main findings revealed that most villagers lack proper access to basic services like health and education but also to town markets due to high prices for water transport and irregular shipping services. The most effected groups are children and women being excluded from mobility to schools and opportunities for income generating.

CD also planned a set of training courses reflecting these findings; we invite villagers, men and women alike, from all ports of call. Our first courses targeted individuals and their entrepreneurial skills by improving their ‘Personal Viability’. We engaged Entrepreneurial Development Training Centre to conduct their personal viability training courses for all franchise routes. In 2010, 40 participants from 20 communities have successfully graduated. The training continues in 2011.

The second training set focuses on community mobilisation as part of reliable community development. Cooperation among community people is essential to develop the community’s self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

This course targets the community as a whole, its resources and human potentials. Participants will learn tools and methods to lead their communities in the process of identification of problems and resources, prioritisation of problems and different ways of solving their problems.

Targeted Outcomes of Training Provided is to contribute to peace building and social development by equal participation of different groups in the community, and to improve the capacity of individuals and communities to identify resources (human/technical) in and outside their communities. Also to empower individuals and groups to forming small projects for living standard improvement and to multiply income generating skills and planning capacities of community members through trained participants of the project arranged training workshops.

Gender involvement by the Project includes assistance to PNG Woman in Maritime Association. 

The Project was also involved in the Capitalization of the National Maritime Safety Authority to the tune of SDR930,000.00 ( K2.50 million). More information on the NMSA can be obtained from their website:

Over the next five years, the focus will be on developing an easily accessible sea transport system to stimulate economic activities in the rural maritime regions and improve the efficiency of international shipping.

Maritime Projects

The Government will continue its investments in rehabilitation, maintenance, reconstruction and upgrading programs on the National Road Network, construction of economically vital missing link roads; and design, reconstruction and upgrading of bridges.

Road Projects

The Government will focus on connecting remote isolated regions that are hard to access by road and at the same time providing a safe, secure reliable cost-effective air transport system to promote economic growth.

Air Projects