Papua New Guinea - Profile
- One of the most fascinating countries in the world, Papua New Guinea is definitely best visited by cruising boat. This not only gives one the opportunity to catch a glimpse of life in a society still following ancient ways, but also avoids the lawlessness that has affected the large towns (on the mainland) of this rich, but poorly managed, country. Outside of the main centres life is little changed and by using common sense one should be able to avoid the few hot spots of trouble (see security section below).
- A cruise in Papua New Guinean waters has been for many people the highlight of their world cruise, and if one chooses one's itinerary carefully it is a country well worth visiting.
- Over the years 1989-1997, the Bougainville region - in particular Bougainville Island - suffered great destruction of life and property during a civil war. Since the end of that period there has been a gradual restoration of peace. The region is now self-governing but still a part of PNG, and had an incident free presidential election in 2010. While there are some areas that are still no go (since June 2011, there have been a number of violent incidents in Central and Southern Bougainville and the port of Buka is considered un-safe), the port of Kieta is safe and has customs, with a well sheltered anchorage and access to provisions.
- Nissan Island (part of Bougainville to the north) is spectacular and welcomes cruisers visiting.
- The Royal Papua Yacht Club in Port Moresby has its own secure marina and welcomes visiting yachts. There are a large number of locally owned yachts in Port Moresby, where facilities are generally good.
- Lae is a mining and transport hub and as such has an abundance of industries that can assist in yachting repairs and maintenance. The Lae Yacht Club is developing a haul out facility (via Hydraulic Trailer) however this service will not be in place until mid 2017.
- Rabaul, on New Britain Island, was always a popular spot among cruising yachts, many of whom used to spend the cyclone season in its landlocked harbour, which is the crater of a volcano. In recent years the town has suffered two destructive volcanic eruptions, however it is trying to get back on its feet again and much of the reconstruction has been completed. Moorings are now available for visiting yachts.
- Madang on the northern coast of New Guinea also has a well-protected harbour in an area scattered with islands, reefs and lagoons. It has always been a popular stop, especially for those yachts taking the route north of New Guinea towards Indonesia (see Security below).
- The best cruising in Papua New Guinea is found among the many islands to the east of the main island, where islanders still live a peaceful life and sail large traditional canoes for fishing and trading voyages.
- Facilities in the smaller towns and outer islands are often basic. There are small boatyards with their own slipways dotted about the country, so one is never too far away should the need arise for some emergency repair. However, all essential spares should be carried on board and one should also provision the boat in one of the major centres before sailing to the islands, where little except a few locally grown vegetables is available.
- Situated in the centre of the Asia-Pacific region, surrounded by the Coral, Bismarck and Solomon Seas, whose constant movements feed and enrich the marine environment, PNG has twice as many marine species as the waters of the Red Sea and an estimated 10 times as many as the Caribbean. Its diving has been rated the Top Dive Destination in the World in Rodale’s Scuba Diving Readers Choice Awards.
It is important to check the latest security situation here using such sites as the U.K. FCO.
PNG has a high violent crime rate against both locals and foreigners. In recent years, the violence and unrest on the mainland appears to have spread to some of the previously untouched, outlying islands. Some of the areas where cruisers have experienced crime towards yachts are detailed below, and in the main these do tend to be armed and violent. Remember that you are a conspicuously rich visitor in a poor neighbourhood.
In general, it is best to avoid any place large enough to have people who migrate there away from their clan/extended family (such as Madang, Port Moresby and Lae - predominantly mainland PNG). There is no dependable rule of law and the traditional system keeps people in check in small communities. Many can't find work in the towns and life becomes even more desperate.
As with any travel in PNG you must remain vigilant at all times. Be sure to lock everything, keep your eyes open to trouble and do not walk around at night. When at anchor, remove anything valuable from the deck and secure anything else, lock your hatches when off the boat and at night, and keep a bright light burning in the cockpit all night to deter boarders.
Don't let your security lapse because you think everyone is so friendly. Most Papua New Guineans are incredibly friendly and giving and this is an amazing place to cruise. But there are always going to be people struggling and desperate, and they are in those bigger towns, or close by.
Another point to note is women should be sensitive with their dress and short or skimpy attire could attract unwanted attention.
A great many cruisers spend months cruising around PNG with no problems at all. Always check the current situation before planning an itineray for PNG (see noonsite piracy reports for a history of security reports from cruisers.)
The best way to find out about changing conditions is to listen to the news, both Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand having good Overseas Services for the Pacific area, or by contacting one's high commission or embassy in Port Moresby, who are usually well informed.
Useful reports on security by cruisers who have been to PNG:
Yacht Adina visited PNG in 2015. Their sailing notes have a list of all the anchorages they visited and advice on security. They did a lot of research in planning their route and did not encounter any problems. Yacht Adina Papua New Guinea Anchorage is available on:
SY Kelaerin's thoughts and experiences re. yacht security in PNG and the Solomons following a 2014 visit.
SY Totem's useful security summary in their March 2013 report of 3 months cruising around PNG.
Areas where cruisers have experienced crime:
Madang on the northern coast of New Guinea, a popular stop with cruisers on their way to Indonesia, is now reported to have increasing security problems similar to those afflicting Lae and Port Moresby. A luxury motoryacht was boarded by thieves here in 2014 and a cruising yacht was boarded and attacked in Hansa Bay, October 2015.
Wewak, also on the north coast of mainland PNG, saw a yacht boarded by armed men with machetes and robbed in the presence of a military patrol in December 2015.
Theft from yachts is increasingly a risk on the islands East of the main island. Local knowledge and basic safety precautions are necessary.
New Ireland & New Britain
Safe anchorage can be found in a number of locations in New Ireland and New Britain. In Kavieng, New Ireland, anchorage off the Nusa Island Retreat on Nusalik Island provides a secure base. In New Britain, local advice remains that anchorage at Rabaul and Kokopo cannot be recommended, as boardings and thefts continue to occur here. The Duke of York Islands, close to Kokopo, have several good anchorages, with local villagers keen to ensure the safety of their island group for travelling yachts.
Lever Harbor, New Georgia: Attempted night time theft from cockpit, 2014.
It is strongly advised that yachts avoid the Manus area (Admiralty Group) as yachts visiting in September 2011 experienced threatening behaviour from local "officials" (see report adjacent).
Vessels travelling west or east to/from Kavieng in Papua New Guinea and Jayapura in Indonesia, a distance of some 670 nautical miles, should note refueling opportunities are limited. Manus is an option if fuel is needed.
Last updated May 2016.
The climate is tropical. From December to April is the north-west monsoon (rarely a sailing wind during this time., while the south-east monsoon is from May to December. Only the south-east of the country is affected by tropical cyclones, whose season is from December until March.
The best time for diving is during the dry season, which starts around April/ May and runs until early December.
A useful guide to South Pacific weather resources complied by a Noonsite contributor, Rory Garland.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.
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