Transport in Papua New Guinea

Transport in Papua New Guinea is in many cases heavily limited by the mountainous terrain. The capital, Port Moresby, is not linked by road to any of the other major towns and many highland villages can only be reached by light aircraft or on foot.


One of the key recommendations of the 1964 World Bank mission was the creation of a new department to manage the development of all transport modes.[1] While many of the World Bank mission's recommendations were much argued both locally and internationally, this proposal was widely accepted as it was clear that both political and economic advancement depended on greatly improved land, sea and air transport. Beginning in 1967 with the appointment of a Coordinator of Transport heading a policy unit, in 1968–69 the Department of Transport was fully established as responsible for policy and investment in all transport modes,[2] (civil aviation regulation remained with the Australian Department of Civil Aviation).

In the late 1960s, a large development program prepared by the Department of Transport as a result of the UNDP Transport Survey of Papua New Guinea was endorsed by the PNG House of Assembly, the Australian Parliament and multilateral agencies, and implementation continued through later decades.[3][4] This and subsequent revisions provided the basis for loans from the multilateral agencies, in particular the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and UNDP, establishing a relationship which remains.[5]

Major improvements were made to key highway links, notably between the coast and the highlands,[6] to provide international standard port facilities at Port Moresby and Lae, and in lesser ports, for international and domestic airport upgradings, and for the regulation and management of transport services. The Department of Transport remains a key government agency. Transport assistance from Australia also continued. The Transport Sector Support Program is funded by the Australian Government and continues a long term commitment to the sector. The Transport Sector Coordination, Monitoring and Implementation Committee (TSCMIC) brings together the heads of all the relevant agencies to coordinate work. This body was created after a National Executive Council decision and first met in July 2006. Maintenance of transport network assets remains a key challenge in order to get the best out of previous investments.

Air Travel

Haia airstrip
Rural airstrip at Haia, Eastern Highlands Province
Columbia Helicopters, Inc, Boeing Vertol 107-II used for heavy lift transportation in Papua New Guinea.

Air travel is a very important form of transport in Papua New Guinea, for the transport of humans and high density/value freight. Aeroplanes made it possible to open up the country during its early colonial period. Even today the two largest cities, Port Moresby and Lae, are only directly connected by planes. The biggest airport in the country is Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby.

Airports: 578 (2007 est.)

Airports - with paved runways
2,438 to 3,047 metres (8,000 to 10,000 ft) 2
1,524 to 2,437 metres (5,000 to 8,000 ft) 14
914 to 1,523 metres (3,000 to 5,000 ft) 4
under 914 metres (3,000 ft) 1
total 21
Airports - with unpaved runways
2,438 to 3,047 metres (8,000 to 10,000 ft) -
1,524 to 2,437 metres (5,000 to 8,000 ft) 10
914 to 1,523 metres (3,000 to 5,000 ft) 58
under 914 metres (3,000 ft) 489
total 557

Heliports: 2 (2007 est.)


Bus station near Walter Bay, from hills (cropped)
Bus station near Walter Bay

As of 1999, Papua New Guinea has a total of 19,600 km (12,200 mi) of all-weather highway, of which only 686 km (426 mi) is sealed/asphalted. Where there are roads there are many privately operated Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs), mostly minivans, which function as unscheduled buses.

The longest road in the country is the Highlands Highway which links Lae and Madang to the Highlands region. The Boluminski Highway links Kavieng and Namatanai in New Ireland Province. A highway linking Wewak in East Sepik Province and Vanimo in West Sepik Province was completed in September 2007.[7] The Kiunga-Tabubil Highway is a privately maintained road that links highland communities in the Western Province.


Papua New Guinea has no major railways, but some mine sites have disused tracks. During the period of German colonial control at the start of the 20th century numerous 600 mm (1 ft 11 58 in) narrow gauge plantation railways had been constructed in German New Guinea. These were built near the settlements of Madang and Rabaul.[8] After the fall of German New Guinea to the Australians in the First World War the railways fell into disrepair.

In September 2007 a mining company proposed to build a new railway to link the coast with a copper-molybdenum at Yandera[9] mine in Madang province.[10]

Waterways, Ports and Port Moresby

POM Downtown
Port Moresby

The country has 10,940 km (6,800 mi) of waterways, and commercial port facilities at Port Moresby, Alotau, Oro Bay, Lae, Kimbe, Kieta Madang, Buka, Rabaul/Kokopo, Kiunga, Wewak and Vanimo.[11]

The major exports are mining and raw materials, with some containerized trade through Port Moresby and Lae. Import volumes exceed exports, resulting in increased shipping costs as the inbound leg compensates for empty capacity on the outbound journey. Principal trade routes are southward to Australian ports, and northward to Singapore.[11]

Merchant marine:
total: 21 ships (1,000 GT or over) totaling 36,417 GT/52,432 tonnes deadweight (DWT)
ships by type: bulk 2, cargo 10, chemical tanker 1, combination ore/oil 1, container 1, petroleum tanker 3, roll-on/roll-off 3 (1999 est.)

In coastal locations small "banana boat" dinghies provide a local transport service.

See also


  1. ^ The Economic Development of the Territory of Papua New Guinea, World Bank, 1964
  2. ^ Programmes and policies for the economic development of Papua New Guinea, Government Printer, Port Moresby, 1968
  3. ^ DN Smith, Transport, development and project aid for Papua New Guinea, Annual Engineering Conference, Institution of Engineers, Australia, Newcastle, 1974
  4. ^ RJ Sothern, The Highlands Highway, Australian Geographer, vol. 12, issue 2, September 1972
  5. ^ GJ McDonell, Studies and Programmes for Transport Facilities in Papua New Guinea, Journal of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, September 1970
  6. ^ See Sothern above
  7. ^ "East Sepik-Sandaun Highway complete". The National. 2007-09-06. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2007-09-06.
  8. ^ "Transport - German New Guinea - German Neuguinea railways 19th Century (1884 - 1914)".
  9. ^ Light Railways December 2007 p23
  10. ^ "Marengo eyes K683m copper-hauler railway". The National. 2007-09-28. Archived from the original on 2008-04-23.
  11. ^ a b Crisp, Dale (2009-07-09). "Troubled times in paradise". Lloyd's List Daily Commercial News. Informa Australia. pp. 11–14.

Further reading

  • McKillop, Robert F; Pearson, Michael R (1997). End of the Line: A History of Railways in Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby: University of Papua New Guinea Press. ISBN 998084096X.
  • Speyer, Martin; Carolin, Mike (2004). Dick, Howard (ed.). In Coral Seas: The History of the New Guinea Australia Line. Caulfield South, Vic.: Nautical Association of Australia in association with John Swire & Sons. ISBN 0975689606.
Boluminski Highway

The Boluminski Highway is the main land transportation route on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. It runs from the provincial capital of Kavieng for 193 km down the east coast of the island to Namatanai and beyond. The whole highway from Kavieng to Namatanai will be sealed by the end of 2018.Originally named Kaiser-Wilhelm-Chaussee during the German protectorate, it was renamed in 1921 into East Coast Road. After Papua New Guinea gained independence (1975) the Highway was renamed again, this time after Franz Boluminski who was the German District Officer from 1910 until the First World War. He built a large section of the highway by forcing individual villages along the coast to construct and maintain a section. If a section of the road fell into disrepair the village responsible would be punished by having to carry his sulky with him in it over the substandard section, and then his horse was reharnessed and he continued.

The quality of the highway was not rivalled on the mainland until the 1950s.

Borpop Airfield

Borpop Airfield, also known as Huris Airfield, was an aerodrome located near Namatani, west of Borpop Harbour in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. The airfield was built by the Imperial Japanese during World War II.

Buna Airfield

Buna Airfield was an aerodrome located near Buna, Papua New Guinea. Built as an emergency landing ground, it was extended during the Second World War by the Imperial Japanese. A new runway was under construction until both runways were neutralized by Allied air bombing in late 1942.

But Airfield

But Airfield, also known as But West to the Japanese and But Drome to the Allies, is a former World War II airfield near But, Papua New Guinea. It was primarily used for light and medium bombers.

Dagua Airfield

Dagua Airfield, also known as But East, is a former World War II airfield near Dagua, Papua New Guinea.

Highlands Highway

The Highlands Highway, sometimes known as the Okuk Highway, is the main land highway in Papua New Guinea. It connects several major cities and is vital for the movement of people and goods between the populous Highlands region and the coast.

For most of its length the Highlands Highway is no more than a single carriageway two-lane road which is often hindered by potholes and land slips. It is also notorious, particularly in the Highlands region, for being the place of numerous armed hold-ups and robberies committed by local bandits called raskols.

Kassam Pass

The Kassam Pass is a road pass on the Highlands Highway in Papua New Guinea. The pass connects the Markham Valley to the fertile Highlands region and is administratively located in the Eastern Highlands Province. It begins at the end of the Markham Valley and rises from a low altitude to around 1,500 m (4,921 ft) over approximately 10 km and finishes at the Yonki Dam.

The pass was originally constructed in the early 1950s by the Australian Administration through the Department of District Services and Native Affairs under the guidance of engineer Rupert Roelof Haviland.

Kelanoa Harbour

Kelanoa Harbour is a harbour on the north coast of Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea serving the town of Kelanoa. It is a large bay with an impenetrable reef and a small island.

Kiunga-Tabubil Highway

The Kiunga-Tabubil Highway is an all weather gravel road that runs from the river port town of Kiunga through Ningerum and Tabubil to the Ok Tedi Mine site, in the remote North Fly District of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. The road is around 137 kilometres (85 mi) long, but this changes as sections are rehashed.

The "highway" was built in the early 1980s. It is maintained by Ok Tedi Mining Limited, who are the greatest beneficiaries of the road. The highway, for the most part, runs parallel with the Ok Tedi River, which is an incredibly fast moving and volatile river since it is a high volume waterway resting on a sand bank. Parts of the highway are often consumed by the river and need to be rebuilt. The cost of maintaining this road is K1.5 million a year, in a region where people have an average annual income of about K50 a year.

There is a copper slurry pipeline running along the full length of the road from the mine site north of Tabubil down to Bige.

The full length of the road was first cycled in 2013 by Luke Jackson, Dylan Carroll, Michael Hayen and Mikel Wolters.


Lakatoi (also Lagatoi) are double-hulled sailing watercraft of Papua New Guinea.

They are named in the Motu language and traditionally used in the Hiri trade cycle.

Lakunai Airfield

Lakunai Airfield was an aerodrome located near Rabaul, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The airfield was later known as Rabaul Airport. It is located at the foot of Tavurvur volcano, near Matupit Island. The airport was destroyed by the 1994 eruption that destroyed the town of Rabaul and subsequently the new airport was built and opened at Tokua, on the opposite side of the Rabaul caldera. The former airport was located at 04°13′S 152°11′E.The airfield was constructed by the Royal Australian Air Force as an emergency landing strip for Vunakanau Airfield and consisted of an unpaved 4,700 foot single runway during World War II. The airfield was captured during the battle of Rabaul in 1942 by the Imperial Japanese and was extensively modified and expanded. Lakunai was later neutralized by Allied air bombing from 1944.

Rapopo Airfield

Rapopo Airfield was an aerodrome located at Lesson Point, Blanche Bay near Rabaul, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The airfield was constructed by the Imperial Japanese during World War II in December 1942. Rapopo was later neutralized by Allied air bombing from 1944. The airfield was abandoned after the cessation of hostilities.

Speed limits in Papua New Guinea

Applicable throughout Papua New Guinea, a speed-limit of 60kmh (37 mph) applies in town areas (built-up areas), unless otherwise indicated by speed control signage applicable to a specific road.

Outside built-up areas, a 75kmh speed-limit (47 mph) applies to highways, unless otherwise indicated.

Papua New Guinea does not use 'end speed-limit' signage (used globally to fall to a regulated rural default speed limit), or 'speed derestriction' signs (to cease all speed restrictions). Any signposted limit outside the two speed-limits listed above, apply only to the specific length of road which it is signposted, its stated speed restriction ending at - the end of the particular road itself (T-intersection or dead-end, the end of the road), or at another speed restriction sign.

It should be noted that Papua New Guinea is a contracting party to 'The UN Convention on Road Traffic' (1949), as at 12 February 1981.

Speed restriction signage used in PNG is to the international system in design.

Tobera Airfield

Tobera Airfield was an aerodrome located near Tobera, near Keravat, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The airfield was constructed by the Imperial Japanese in World War II during August 1943. Tobera was later neutralized by Allied air bombing from 1944. The airfield was abandoned after the cessation of hostilities.

Tourism in Papua New Guinea

Tourism in Papua New Guinea is a fledgling industry but there are attractions for the potential visitor which include culture, markets, festivals, diving, surfing, hiking, fishing and the unique flora and fauna. Papua New Guinea receives an increasing number of visitors each year, with approximately 184,000 international arrivals in 2015.

Transport in Oceania

This page links to several topics related to transport in Oceania.Transport in Oceania is most advanced in Australia, Hawaii and New Zealand, though all countries in the region have faced difficulties in providing facilities due to their low population density. Smaller islands are dependent on sea and air transport, but have had difficulties operating either national or regional airlines and shipping lines.

Vehicle registration plates of Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea requires its residents to register their motor vehicles and display vehicle registration plates. Current plates are Australian standard 372 mm × 134 mm, and use Australian stamping dies.

Vunakanau Airfield

Vunakanau Airfield was an aerodrome located near Vunakanau, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The airfield was constructed as a Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome and consisted of an unpaved single runway during World War II. The airfield was captured during the battle of Rabaul in 1942 by the Imperial Japanese and was extensively modified and expanded. Vunakanau was later neutralized by Allied air bombing from 1944.

The airfield was utilised as an emergency landing strip for Rabaul (former airport) until 1983, however it was no longer needed when the new Rabaul Airport was built at Tokua. The runways are now overgrown.

Wewak Airfield

Wewak Airfield is a former World War II airfield near Wewak, Papua New Guinea.

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