Sea transport is the lifeline of Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and communities, moving the vast majority of people, goods and resources. It is crucial for trade and economic development and impacts upon virtually every development initiative (UNCTAD, 2014). Yet for many PICs, existing maritime transport services are increasingly unaffordable and unsustainable (AusAID, 2008; Nuttall et al 2014a).
Ships are often old, poorly maintained and inefficient (ADB, 2007), and there is a vicious cycle of old ships being replaced with old ships(Nuttall et al, 2014a). Fossil fuel is often the largest single operating cost for shipping operators. Combined with narrow reef passages and small loads, many routes are unviable and uneconomic.
Predicted increases in both fuel and compliance costs means that this scenario is likely to get worse over time, meaning that governments and donors will be increasingly called upon to subsidise or service these routes (Nuttall et al,2014a).
However, a fast developing body of research identifies an alternative future pathway involving a structured transition to low carbon shipping. This brief outlines the main features of this emerging field and identifies the policy choices that must be made to enable a more sustainable Pacific islands sea transport future.
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