Supporting the speedy and cost-effective delivery of essential supplies to Nauru

chris-tinning  By Chris Tinning, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Development & Finance Division and DFAT Chief Economist – Development

Imagine if you regularly waited months to receive medical supplies, food and water, and then when the ship finally arrived it took up to three weeks to unload due to the increased frequency of adverse weather conditions caused by climate change. This is the reality for the people of Nauru. That is why Australia is partnering with Nauru, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to build a climate resilient, safe deep water port to facilitate the speedy delivery of essential supplies and to encourage increased trade and economic activity in the country.

Nauru, an isolated island nation in the Pacific already impacted by climate change, relies on sea transportation for over 95 percent of its people’s basic needs, and to transport its export products to the international market. Cargo unloading is undertaken in the open ocean by the transfer of individual containers by the ship’s gear onto small self-propelled barges. In rough weather, which has increased in frequency and intensity over the years due to climate change, the transfer of cargo from large container ships to old barges is a dangerous operation that is often suspended until seas abate.


Container 1-edited

This transformational project demonstrates Nauru’s deep commitment to adapt to the impacts of climate change. It will result in Nauru having year-round port operations, with construction of a new wharf, a berth pocket, and a breakwater that is able to withstand current and future climatic conditions. It will also reconstruct port buildings, the container storage, and port security facilities, and include a package of reforms to improve the efficiency of the port’s operations.

The existing port at Aiwo comprises a small boat harbour that cannot accommodate ocean-going container and cargo ships. These ships are forced to load and discharge their cargo using an offshore anchorage and mooring system beyond the fringing reef in the deep open waters. The deep-water mooring buoys currently require maintenance and replacement every five to ten years at considerable cost and are inadequate to withstand current and future rough seas and weather conditions.

All cargo and container transfers to and from the vulnerable pusher barges–that run back and forth between the vessels and the dock in the boat harbour–are done manually. This is difficult, time-consuming, and dangerous to crews and vessels. Each loading and unloading takes about 21 days to complete, driving up fuel, freight, and demurrage costs.


The new port facilities will result in the establishment of more efficient port operations. Its climate-friendly design aims to substantially reduce fuel use during loading and unloading, and build in resilience to the impacts of sea level rise, tidal and wind activity in the region. The package of reforms includes restructuring the port authority, staff training, international recruitment of new management, tariff restructuring, and engagement of the private sector in port operations.A fund will also be established for maintenance of the new assets constructed under the project. 

The ADB has approved the USD79.59 million Nauru Sustainable and Climate Resilient Connectivity Project that will establish a fully functioning international port in Nauru for the first time. Australia is set to provide up to USD13.5 million (AUD18 million) over three years in support of the project. This is in addition to the USD2.5 million (AUD3.3 million) Australia provided for port reform in May 2017. The ADB will provide USD21.3 million, the GCF USD26.9 million, and the Government of Nauru USD17.3 million.

A redeveloped, climate resilient port and improvements to the capacity of the Nauru Port Authority will support Nauru to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and strengthen Nauru’s connectivity to the region and the world through improved operational capacity, along with decreased shipping costs and times. The new port will provide the means for Nauru to boost economic activity and trade with the region and the world, and support an improved quality of life for its people.


Chris Tinning is head of the Multilateral Development and Finance Division and the Chief Economist (Development) at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Chris is responsible for overseeing Australia’s engagement with multilateral development agencies and for policy and program advice on the Sustainable Development Goals, development finance, private sector engagement, infrastructure, economic policy and agriculture.

Chris has spent over 20 years in DFAT and the former Australian Agency for International Development. He was Assistant Secretary for DFAT’s APEC, G20 and Multilateral Strategy Branch and Australia’s APEC Senior Official.

He had postings to Jakarta and Washington, and was seconded to the World Bank as adviser to Australia’s Executive Director.

During his time in Canberra, Chris worked in a range of policy and program roles, including on the PNG, Pacific regional, Africa and Latin America country programs.

He headed the Secretariat to the 2011 Independent Review of the Australian Aid Program.

Chris has a degree in economics from the Australian National University.


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