Crane lifting a large vehicle

PCF Agencies and Tropical Agency Ltd. – Vanuatu

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Interview with

Mr. Laurence Cameron

Principal Customs Broker at PCF Agencies


Mr. Mark Pardoe

Country Manager at Tropical Agency Ltd.
Laurence Cameron and Mark Pardoe

Laurence, can you first please tell our readers about Vanuatu? It’s a place that is seldom in the news shipping wise. For the benefit of our readers, could you elaborate a bit about the island of Vanuatu and perhaps tell us about the distances involved from Vanuatu to elsewhere in the Pacific?

Vanuatu is a South Pacific archipelago made up of eighty-three small islands that are of volcanic origin and cover around 12,000sq km. Around sixty-five of the islands are inhabited.


The largest towns in Vanuatu are Port Vila, which is also the capital, and Luganville which is situated on the largest island of Espiritu Santo. The capital can be found on Efate which is the third-largest island. Both these towns are the international hub for both sea and air freight import and export. Luganville wharf has just finished and international upgrade to accommodate larger cruise and container ships.

Vanuatu port and nearby islands

A completely new container terminal has been built in Port Vila (Lapatesi Wharf) and was handed over in December 2018. This now allows both wharves to operate with cruise ships at the main wharf and container ships at Lapatesi. This means no more port congestion with ships having to anchor for days to berth.

Both airports have also recently undergone a runway upgrade to accommodate code E planes. Expansion work is still ongoing at Bauerfield International Airport in Port Vila with an upgrade to passenger and freight terminals as well.

Distances (approx.):
– Auckland, New Zealand – 2,300km
– Noumea, New Caledonia – 550km
– Sydney, Australia – 2,500km
– Suva, Fiji – 1,100km

I understand that you work as a shipping agent but that you also have a freight forwarding division?

Tropical Agency Ltd. is a shipping agency only with multiple principals. They are Swire Shipping, NYK-NBP, Kyowa Shipping, Ocean Network Express (ONE), CMA/CGM, Sofrana-ANL and Vanguard Logistic Services (VLS).

PCF agencies handle all the local paperwork as customs brokers and freight forwarders. We work closely with agencies in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for all our clients’ import and export needs.

Lifting a digger onto a vessel

Who are the main trading partners of Vanuatu?

We support all importers and exporters throughout Vanuatu. The main commodities for export are copra, coconut oil, copra meal, cocoa, kava and beef. 

Tell us about customs clearance in Vanuatu?

The Department of Customs and Inland Revenue (DCIR) have just completed upgrading the customs system from ASYCUDA++ to ASYCUDA World, approx. twelve months ago. DCIR have just enabled online direct payments for customs clearances. It’s the first country in the pacific to have achieved this. Currently, DCIR is undergoing the next step of the single window system to link in the third parties electronically. This is scheduled to be completed in the next eighteen months. Yet another first for DCIR Vanuatu.

Two large red vehicles

Are you originally from the island of Vanuatu yourself? How is it to live, shall we say, ‘so far away’?

Mark: I am originally from Australia, although I have been living and working in Vanuatu for twelve years. Geographically, Vanuatu is not ‘so far away’, as it is a 2.5-hour flight to Brisbane and a 3-hour flight to Sydney, Australia.

Laurence: I’m originally from Australia as well. I’ve been here in Vanuatu for the last ten years working in the import/export and logistics sectors. For the last five years, I have been running our company, covering customs brokering and freight forwarding for both air and sea shipments.

Can you tell us about some of the ship calls that you have handled and/or if you generally represent any shipowners calling Vanuatu?

As discussed previously, we have multiple principals noting a small country like Vanuatu. We also are engaged by third parties to handle visiting warships, survey vessels and some charter vessels.

Transporting large equipment

From a tourism point of view, would you recommend Vanuatu as a place to visit? How do people get there?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Vanuatu is an idyllic place to visit, with warm waters and golden sandy beaches. You can travel to Vanuatu by cruise ship or visit by air; Vanuatu has direct flights from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. If any of your readers do travel here, I hope they look us up. We would love to show you around the Island of Efate.

What’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Tropical Agency Ltd:
T: +678 22205

Pacific Customs & Freight Agencies:
T: +678-5533030