Tokelau Wharfs and Reef Channels

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)


Tokelau, with a population of around 1500 is one of the most remote nations in the world.

This tiny country, one of the few atoll nations on the planet, lies in the Pacific Ocean, about 500 kilometres north of Samoa, and can only be reached by a 26 hour boat ride from Apia. Tokelau consists of three atolls and has no port facilities nor an airport. The only way to reach the islands is by transfer from an ocean-going ferry into small lighters that traverse the surf zone through narrow channels cut into the coral reefs on each of the atolls.

This transfer operation is weather dependent and can be dangerous because of the waves that break into the channels causing choppy conditions and unpredictable currents.

The Tokelau Government sought help from the New Zealand Government to improve safety for transferring passengers and goods through the four reef channels, on Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade engaged Calibre to investigate solutions, obtain agreement from the villages and to manage the project implementation. The Calibre team worked closely with National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) staff to understand the effect of climate and weather on the channels, now and in the future, and spent time on each atoll consulting with the Taupulega (village council) on local needs for improved safety and operability.

An Australian company was engaged to construct the new wharves and upgrade reef channels after an international procurement process.

The NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opened the new facilities on Fakaofo atoll that have already improved operability and enhanced safety of both passengers and crew transfer to and from the atoll.

The successful delivery of this project resulted from the flexibility and close collaboration between all parties - Calibre, the contractor, the villagers on each island, MFAT and the Tokelau Government officials – and the ability to understand each other’s point of view and being culturally aware.