Marine Atlas: Maximizing Benefits for Vanuatu

FULL SPEED AHEAD: VESSEL TRAFFIC Vanuatu’s waters are a highway for thousands of domestic and international vessels that are lifelines for many Ni-Vanuatu who rely on the regular delivery of important goods and food items. Minimizing potential environmental and safety risks is a high priority for all.

The tree and the canoe

Ships coming in and out of Vanuatu ports, from fishing vessels to cargo vessels, cruise ships and ferries, serve many different purposes. Vanuatu has about 700 registered ships. Fishing vessels operate in a range of fisheries, including artisanal and subsistence inshore fisheries and commercial offshore fisheries for tuna and billfish (see also chapters “Fishing in the dark” and “Small fish, big importance”). The main freight ships operate out of Port Vila, with several other ports for the transport of bulk goods. The main commercial shipping routes include lines to other Pacific Island countries, Australia and New Zealand, and destinations in Asia. In addition, cruise ships have been visiting Vanu- atu for many years now. Over the past 10 years, the number of cruise ship arrivals in Vanuatu has grown by an average of 15 per cent per year (Net Bonnemaison (1985) pondered “Can the tree, symbol of rootedness and stability, be recon- ciled with the canoe, symbol of journeying and unrestricted wandering? At first sight, appar- ently not. Nevertheless, Melanesian civilization uses this dual metaphor, this apparent con- tradiction, to define traditional identity. On the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, they say that man is a tree that must take root and stay fixed in its place. The local group, on the other hand, is a canoe that follows roads and explores the wide world”. This shows the great traditional impor- tance seafaring has always had to Ni-Vanuatu. To make a traditional outrigger canoe, also known as Kenu, Ni-Vanuatu felled and hollowed out trees. The living tree in some sense under- went a process of death and rebirth.

Balance Management Group Pty Ltd, 2014). In 2013, more than 240,000 people came to Vanuatu by cruise ship, spending more than 490,000 pas- senger days on the islands (Net Balance Manage- ment Group Pty Ltd, 2014). There are also many yachts cruising Vanuatu’s waters (see also chapter “Beyond the beach”). Alongside the two major government-managed ports, Port Vila and Santo, are smaller ports ca- tering for inter-island ferries and cargo. Port Vila is the largest and busiest port in Vanuatu, accom- modating large numbers of cruise ships, cargo carriers and inter-island vessels. The Port of Santo is small by international standards but caters for significant copra (dried coconut kernels) exports. From the map of different types of vessels criss- crossing Vanuatu’s waters, it is clear that MSP is key not only for navigational safety, but also to minimize conflicts with Vanuatu’s many other ma- rine values that are threatened, be it by fishing or oil spills. In order to avoid the negative impacts of oil transporters and shipping emissions in gener- al, and to decrease Vanuatu’s fossil fuel depend- ence, more sustainable forms of sea transport are being explored. As a seafaring nation, Ni-Vanuatu can look to their ancestors, who were advanced sailors following the stars in their traditional ca- noes, for inspiration.




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