Road works ahead
An alternative to the Highlands Highway?
Currently, the only way of bringing bulk agricultural produce out of Papua New Guinea’s fertile Highlands is down the Highlands Highway to the port city of Lae. A new study has identified a faster second route through Gulf Province.
The study, supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand under the International Finance Corporation (IFC) PNG Partnership, found that setting up road and ferry connectivity in Gulf Province would sharply reduce travel times.
For example, produce from the Highlands to consumers in Port Moresby could be there in two days rather than 10.
“One of the biggest challenges in PNG is transportation, it’s slow, unsafe and expensive,” says the IFC’s Christian Reichel.
“The Highlands produces beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables, but bringing them down to Port Moresby quickly requires a plane, which is very expensive. Shipping via Lae can incur delays, which often affects the quality of the produce.”
Reichel says the IFC initially spoke to oil and gas companies Total, Oil Search and ExxonMobil to understand what was being done with the barges and service roads through the Gulf Province, where they operate.
Gulf Province is the host province for the PNG’s second gas project, Papua LNG.
“We saw an opportunity and got a consulting team on board. Our study identified that it would be feasible to run a commercial ferry service from Port Moresby to Kikori, then run refresher containers from Kikori up to the Highlands by road to Mendi and beyond.
“This route could reduce transport costs by up to 50 per cent and travel time by up to 80 per cent.
We also analysed the transport cost reduction on the route and it is very favourable,” Reichel says.
“The government has asked the World Bank, IFC and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to cooperate on delivering the project,” he says.
“The ADB is interested in developing the wharf needed to move goods, and the government has asked the World Bank to look at the road. What is clear is that strong partnerships will be key to delivering this project for the people of PNG.”