ADB to help expand Cook Islands' Avatiu Port

By Richard High24 November 2008

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to provide a US$ 15.5 million grant to expand the Cook Islands' main international port.

Avatiu Port currently handles 90% of the country's imports and the Avatiu Port Development Project will replace the main wharf with a climate-proofed wharf that is less vulnerable to damage from large waves and effects of extreme weather.

The Project will also widen the harbour entrance to enable larger vessels to berth at the reconfigured wharf.

The ADB will finance US$ 8.6 million from its ordinary capital resources and US$ 6.9 million from the concessional Asian Development Fund (ADF).

The Cook Islands Government will contribute US$ 2.7 million to complete the funding for the project.

The Cook Islands' economy depends heavily on imports to support its tourism industry, which contributes over 50% of GDP.

Avatiu Port's wharf is dilapidated, ageing, and vulnerable to storm and impact from vessels. Larger ships, including cruise ships, cannot be handled by Avatiu Port, limiting the economic benefits to be gained from the tourism market.

Commenting on the grant, Richard Phelps, infrastructure specialist of ADB's office in the Fiji Islands, said, "The Project aims to extend the life of Avatiu Port by 30 years and enhance the safety and efficiency of port operations in Cook Islands."

According to the ADB, the Cook Islands is among the best performing Pacific economies. However, fiscal sustainability remains fragile and the small economy is heavily reliant on tourism. Threats to a sustained economic growth include the impact of climate change.

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