World Bank calls for blue transformation of Pacific maritime transport

A new report from the World Bank has called for a ‘Blue Transformation’ of the Pacific maritime transport sector. This transformation would promote economic growth, achieve environmental sustainability goals, and enhance the region’s resilience against natural disasters and shocks.

Released on World Oceans Day, the report outlines the numerous challenges faced by Pacific Island countries’ maritime transport sector. It underscores the importance of strengthening infrastructure, improving services, and enhancing regional governance to drive economic growth and foster resilience.

“Pacific Islanders were the first mariners, and ocean connectivity is essential to the region. But the region’s maritime infrastructure faces a number of risks, such as increasing exposure to natural hazards due to climate change and limited investments in port asset maintenance and domestic shipping modernization,” said Benedict Eijbergen, World Bank Practice Manager for Transport in East Asia and Pacific.

The report emphasizes the need for robust and consistent regulatory frameworks to guide necessary sector reforms. It suggests that a more collaborative regional approach to maritime transport would stimulate economic development in Pacific Island countries. Additionally, reducing dependency on imported fuels would contribute to the region’s sustainable growth.

The report also underscores the importance of strategic asset management and long-term planning for gateway ports in the Pacific Islands to ensure operational efficiency and economic vitality, with reliability, affordability, and sustainability of Pacific shipping services all intrinsically linked to economic growth and environmental sustainability.

In addition, the report examines how across the Pacific, sustained subsidies and support for franchise shipping schemes can significantly boost connectivity and economic opportunities in remote areas. It also highlights the need for comprehensive risk assessments, climate adaptation measures, and effective asset management to strengthen resilience in maritime transport systems.

“To ensure safety, efficiency, and adherence to the global regulatory framework, clear policies, independent funding, and strong governance are vital,” said the World Bank’s Benedict Eijbergen. “Governments and donors must work together to ensure Pacific economies and people remain linked by their shared ocean, not separated by it.

“The World Bank is deeply committed to collaborating with Pacific Island countries, regional organizations and development partners to address these challenges and pave the way for a sustainable and prosperous future in the Pacific region.”

In the Pacific, the World Bank is currently investing nearly US$300 million in resilient infrastructure, with almost a quarter of the funding allocated to the maritime sector. The Bank is also supporting governments in delivering reliable and affordable services, strengthening governance and capacity.  Ongoing World Bank supported projects in the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati aim to strengthen Pacific maritime networks in the region.

Photo credit: iStock/ DEBOVE SOPHIE

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