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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.

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