Improving the resilience of Tuvalu’s maritime sector

Published: 25 September 2017

People from Niutao and Nanumanga, outer islands of Tuvalu, rely heavily on shipping operations for the supply of life’s necessities but also to prepare and respond to a crisis or emergency. New maritime infrastructures are expected to improve livelihoods for the local population and the resilience of Tuvalu’s maritime sector.

The maritime sector is crucial for connecting the outer islands of Tuvalu with the main port in Funafuti. The small size of Tuvalu and the infertile soil make inhabitants heavily reliant on shipping operations as there are no domestic aviation services in the country. Most foodstuffs, building materials, products as well as critical emergency relief after natural disasters, are imported from Fiji or from the capital Funafuti and distributed among the islands with inter-island vessels. Currently inter-island vessels moor outside the harbor and transport goods to shore via a workboat. On some of the islands, such as Niutao and Nanumaga, there are no facilities on land to offload the goods, so cargo has to be carried manually from the boat onto the beach increasing the risk of damage and significantly increasing offloading time.


Workboat transporting passengers and goods from a larger vessel to the islands.


Potential locations for new ship landing facilities

The World Bank has contracted Deltares to carry out an exploratory study to be used as a basis for the development of new ship landing facilities at the two islands. Deltares will quantify present and future coastal hazards at the two islands based on the use of the Delft3D and XBeach models, and  an assessment of potential climate change effects. Prospective locations for the development of two new ports will be identified. At those locations, preliminary port layouts will be outlined, supported by initial cost-estimates of the proposed infrastructures. The vulnerability of these infrastructures to present and future coastal hazards will also b e evaluated. In addition, the possible impact of the new maritime infrastructures on the surrounding coastline (i.e. in terms of morphodynamic changes and coastal flooding) will be analysed.

Developing ship landing facilities at the two islands would directly improve the living conditions of the inhabitants by providing safer, more reliable access to maritime services, and being better prepared to respond to crises and/or emergencies, attributes that are critical in vulnerable areas throughout the Polynesian islands..

Contactpersons Worldbank

Sean Michaels:

Nora Weisskopf: