Tokelau’s new cargo vessel on schedule for 2018 service

By Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi

Tokelau’s new, custom-built cargo vessel is on schedule for an October launch and expected delivery by early 2018.
Hon Afega & Berjaya management-cropped Minister for Transport, Hon. Afega Gaualofa made an official visit to inspect the yet-to-be named vessel being built at Berjaya Dockyard in Malaysia.

“Out of all our capital developments, the cargo vessel is the one all three Taupulega agree is the number one priority,” he stated.

“This is a central pillar of our transport infrastructure, driver of our socioeconomic aspirations and therefore development agenda. For the transport sector, the vessel will allow us to control our own travel/supply needs and as a consequence, pace of development. This is one of our tupuna’s farsighted aspirations. Those are aspects why the arrival of this vessel will be cause for not just celebrations in Tokelau, but an indication that we, as a people and nation are steadily moving forward towards self-sufficiency.

“So when the latest General Fono [July 2017] endorsed the decision to go ahead with the cargo vessel, it was important our Transport team give it the highest priority.
Which is why my visit to the Berjaya management in Malaysia to inspect the vessel was a ministerial one, accompanied by Director Su’a, to re-emphasize to them the importance of their task to Tokelau’s people, and convey across the blessings of our elders to their work.
“I am very happy to report that progress is right on schedule.” 

Tokelau delegation and Berjaya team-cropped-904 Accompanying the minister was Director for Transport, Su’a Himona Mei.

“As the minister stated, this is a time of great excitement for not just our department but for Tokelau as a whole,” he said.

“Not only will it provide more comfortable travelling facilities for our people but will truly allow us to manage and control our travel and supplies schedule suitable to our people and development needs.”
On the development and economic side, the potential for self-sufficiency, profitability and employment are exciting prospects.

“The cargo vessel will allow our large developments on each of the three atolls to progress more quickly, and on their planned schedule with certainty.”

One of the uncertainties that will be removed is when an atoll needs something urgently, requiring an unscheduled charter.

“Right now that is a scenario we do not have any control over. When a village calls for an emergency supply, we have to work something out with Samoa Shipping, who themselves have their own schedule in which they factor Tokelau’s supply needs. So when we request an urgent charter that’s outside the scheduled sailings, we get one of two results. They agree to the request however, that comes at a great cost to us. And secondly, if they say no, it means the development work in question will be delayed or the urgent supply needed, which could be medical for example, will not arrive at the time of greatest need.

“But having a second vessel on our fleet means we can immediately sail direct to that atoll and deliver their request – that is such a great feeling for us at transport – to be able to add that capability to service and meet the needs of our people.”

There is a second silver lining in the acquisition of the new cargo vessel.

“This vessel elevates our department’s capability straight away, allowing Tokelau to offer a charter service to neighboring countries.

“It has three massive and immediate socioeconomic impacts. First it creates a brand new revenue stream for the government through chartering – both the new vessel and the Mataliki. We have received requests from a number of countries and currently we are holding those discussions and the outlook is very positive.

“Secondly, the vessel not only replaces the astronomically expensive costs of chartering, but we now keep the income from cargo and ticketing which more than offset the operational and maintenance costs. The exciting reality of this situation is that funds that would otherwise have gone to chartering can now be diverted to other national priorities such as health, education, village projects because the vessel can now pay for its own operation and maintenance. And with our information and management systems streamlined, we are looking at a profitable service in the near future.

“The third high-level benefit is Tokelau will now have an industry employer for its own people. Tokelauans can study in a secured career pathway to be ships’ crew, captains, engineers, and so forth. And if that gives them a launching pad to international careers – how our elders and ancestors will judge our generation with favour.”

As part of Tokelau’s preparations for its new vessel, the department is running a ‘Name the new Cargo Vessel’ competition. It’s a NZ$1,000 winner take all competition. For those interested, click on the link here.

For more information contact: Su’a Himona Mei, Director Transport and Support Services | Ph: +685 | Mobile: +685 | Email:


Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. It is located in the Pacific Ocean north of Samoa and south of the Equator (9 00 S, 172 00 W). It is only accessible by boat, taking an estimated 28hours to reach the closest atoll, Fakaofo, a further three hours to Nukunonu, and another six hours to Atafu.

It is made up of the three small atolls named above, separated from each other by high seas. The total land area is approximately 12 km². The total sea area of the exclusive economic zone is approximately 518,000 km². The height above sea level is between 3-5 meters, the maximum width is 200 meters. Tokelau is therefore particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise.

The people of Tokelau are New Zealand citizens. Their relationship hailed by the United Nations as a model for other territories and administering countries to follow.

The population of 1499 (2016 census) is spread approximately equally among the three atolls (Atafu (541); Fakaofo (506) and Nukunonu (452). The traditional lifestyle was subsistence but Tokelau has moved to a cash economy. The only natural resource of any current economic significance is the fishery of the exclusive economic zone.

Tokelau has no main town; each island has its own administrative centre, hospital, school and basic infrastructure. There are no airstrips or harbours. Access is by ship only, through the Port of Apia, Samoa.

There are approximately 7000 Tokelauans living in New Zealand, and smaller communities live in Australia, American Samoa, Samoa, Rapa Nui, and Hawaii.