A ceremony was held on Friday to mark the completion of the $27 million Avatiu Port upgrade, which Puna said would benefit the Cook Islands economy.
“We expect to see an increase in trade and new port users, such as more cruise ship visits and longline fishing vessel activity. This will help boost trade and tourism and create more opportunities for our people.”
He said the harbour is an important gateway for the Cook Islands, which receives about 90 per cent of imports by sea.
The Avatiu project, managed by Beca International Consultants, involved replacing the domestic and international wharves, and deepening the harbour. The project was funded via a loan to the Cook Islands government by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Chairman of the Board of the Cook Islands Ports Authority, Michael Henry, said the location of the harbour posed difficulties for the project.
“There have been and continue to be many constraints in developing a harbour in this location, with its north-facing entrance meaning it is more exposed to trade winds and swells than is preferred and its location directly in the flight path means certain restrictions are in place that are not ideal.
“But given these physical constraints I believe the people of the Cook Islands can be well pleased with the facility they now have.”
He said the project created jobs for more than 60 local employees.
“They received valuable on-the-job training and opportunities that would otherwise not have been available to them,” said Henry.
He said the upgraded port will operate more efficiently, with less risk of environmental damage due to features such as taking oil and gas lines underground, and creating dedicated areas for container cleaning.