MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a financial assistance package of $15.5 million to expand Avatiu Port, Cook Islands' main international port, which handles 90% of imports by sea.

The Avatiu Port Development Project will replace the main wharf with a climate-proofed wharf that is less vulnerable to damage from large waves and effects of extreme weather. The Project will also widen the harbor entrance to enable larger vessels to berth at the reconfigured wharf.

ADB will finance $8.6 million from its ordinary capital resources and $6.9 million from the concessional Asian Development Fund (ADF). The Cook Islands Government will contribute $2.7 million to complete the funding for the project.

Cook Islands' economy depends heavily on imports to support its tourism industry, which contributes over 50% of the gross domestic product.

Avatiu Port's wharf is dilapidated, ageing, and vulnerable to storm and impact from vessels. Larger ships, including cruise ships, cannot be handled by Avatiu Port, limiting the economic benefits to be gained from the tourism market.

"The Project aims to extend the life of Avatiu Port by 30 years and enhance the safety and efficiency of port operations in Cook Islands," said Richard Phelps, Infrastructure Specialist of ADB's office in the Fiji Islands.

The Cook Islands is among the best performing Pacific economies. However, fiscal sustainability remains fragile and the small economy is heavily reliant on tourism. Threats to a sustained economic growth include the impact of climate change.