By Levi J Parsons
Prior to China Harbor Engineering Company’s (CHEC) construction of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) four-lane bridge of Laloki, a narrow crossing was the only way trucks carrying vital supplies could reach the central provinces from the capital city of Port Moresby.
According to Buni Morua, a local villager in the sun-drenched South Pacific nation, not only was it a difficult and slow trip for truck drivers passing through, but for those living nearby the bridge it was extremely dangerous.
He told Xinhua that on many occasions children who were crossing the three-meter-wide bridge on foot would sometimes get caught halfway and see a large vehicle bearing down on them.
To save themselves, the children would either have to “hang off the rail” or “drop into the river” about 10 meters below.
At night, things got even worse and it was common for criminal groups to “block off” the bridge and rob vehicles carrying supplies.
But with a lot of hard work from CHEC and the hundreds of local employees who helped build the bridge, things on the village of Laloki have changed.
“We are happy because of the way they came in and the way they worked with the community and constructed the new bridge,” Morua said. “Now we can have two trucks running at the same time and have a very big space to stand.”
Despite being rich in culture, history, resources and natural beauty, PNG’s infrastructure development has lagged behind, especially when it comes to transportation.
With no railway network or national highway, transportation costs are high for local and international businesses alike.
But where some see problems, others like CHEC Vice President Kong Qi, see opportunities.
“There is a high demand in the infrastructure market and on the whole, the economic structures of China and Papua New Guinea are highly complementary,” he told Xinhua.
“Although their natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals are abundant, PNG’s economic development depends on the export of those resources,” he said. “And this is highly dependent on further infrastructure construction.”
With financing help from ChinaAid, CHEC has been working hand in hand with the PNG government and the community, to provide an array of much needed services.
So far since 2011, the engineering firm has been undertaking 23 projects across the country, including the construction of airports, hospitals, bridges and ports.
But it’s the National Capital District’s Road Rehabilitation Project which includes five other bridges similar to the one at Laloki, that is most visible in Port Moresby.
Essentially planned as a ring-road to link the city together, the network also includes a massive section of road that will access the country’s new APEC House facility which will host the APEC summit at the end of the year.
Beginning at the country’s main cargo dock at Port Moresby Harbor, the new road infrastructure is set to transform life in the capital and make it much easier for goods to be transported around the city.
On top of this, the once isolated communities on the outskirts of the capital are now beginning to thrive, with the new stretch of road already providing vital connectivity to the rest of the Port Moresby.
For Kong, adhering to the company’s social values is paramount, especially on a foreign land.
“We want to integrate and spread friendship by fulfilling our share of responsibilities, providing quality service to clients and working for win-win cooperation,” the business leader said.
As a result, CHEC has not only looked to supplying locals with the infrastructure they need, but also with employment opportunities.
By partnering with dozens of local companies, CHEC has now created over 3,000 local jobs.
According to Kong, the company has also “trained hundreds of young civil engineers from PNG” and offered “advanced students sponsored trips to China for further education.”
Local man Jov Kevin, who recently found work tarring the Poreporena Highway, told Xinhua that “many men come here to look for a job and they get a job. All of us. We’re happy.”
“It is a good experience for me, building roads,” he said.
Photo of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea capital from google images