Sustainable sea transport for the Pacific Islands: the obvious way forward

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.

Read the full brief below and share your comments.


7 thoughts on “Sustainable sea transport for the Pacific Islands: the obvious way forward

  1. Heinz Otto

    from Hamburg Comes this Support of the letter, regarding the use of the wind again in the south pacific Region, to connect the beings on their Islands.
    I hope to Change the minds in Paris to stop the emissions of the worldwide ships…
    Ipcc must reach their Goal and stress the IMO, to accept the word “SAIL with the wind” .
    H.Otto –

  2. Kathy Pelish

    Oceania is unfortunately one of the first regions of the world to deal with climate change impact, and moving away from fossil fuels is urgent. The paper is well-written and I recommend its inclusion. Because our sail transport co-op here in Seattle is dedicated to the cooperative model, you may also want to consult with the San Francisco area group, Sustainable Economies Law Center,, for innovative ideas on community-owned enterprises, including investment and governance strategies. They also understand how to advocate with local lawmakers to create supportive legislature. Best wishes! Salish Sea Trading Cooperative

  3. Lucy

    Very important. The pacific islands are at the front edge of climate change, yet entirely deendent on fossil fuels. A 100% renewable powered shipping network is urgently needed here and in the rest of the world.

  4. Dr Matthew Anderson

    This is an important research agenda with potential for significant social, economic and environmental impacts. The approach outlined convincingly demonstrates the need for linking research and policy in order to deliver sustainable transport solutions for Pacific Island Countries. The academic contribution is significant and offers an important insight into issues of global sustainable transport and existing barriers to development.

  5. Wiilf Chaplin

    The vessel size used in inter island transport makes them an excellent size to benefit from knowledge transfer of the technologies developed in the marine leisure industry

  6. Gavin Allwright

    This is a very timely and important paper highlighting the critical need for a sustainable shipping network for a region heavily dependent on fossil fuel, with aging fleets and many routes heavily subsidized or not viable anymore. This is a major drag on development in the region and this paper delivers a balanced appraisal of the challenges facing the region along with potential solutions. The South Pacific region could, and should, become the leader in this and the network developed there will have profound effects upon other regions and scaling to the global industry as a whole. This provides a unique insight into a very challenging and rarely researched area.

  7. diane gilpin (@digilpin)

    PICs are most in need of renewable powered shipping solutions since islanders are dependent on imported fossil fuels transported by fossil fuels – all of which exacerbate climate change which poses unaccepatble risks to small islands. PICs are in a unique positionto lead the world in shipping by developing a 100% renewable powered shipping NETWORK to lead the world.


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