The $8 million project – commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme – is being undertaken by dredging and civil contracting company Hall Pacific and is expected to be completed towards the end of 2016.
Hall Pacific Managing Director Cameron Hall said Tropical Cyclone Pam had devastated the atoll’s coastal defences in March 2015 causing significant damage to the existing seawall on Nukufetau’s north side.
“The severe wave action resulted in concrete blocks dislodging from the existing seawall and damaging the community settlement, including the atoll’s infrastructure and environmental assets,” Mr Hall said.
“The cyclone highlighted the inadequacy of the existing seawall and the importance of having a robust barrier in place to protect against large waves along this stretch of coastline, so a lot of thought and careful planning has gone into designing the replacement seawall.”
Mr Hall said Nukufetau’s low elevation and limited land area made the atoll particularly vulnerable to coastal erosion and inundation.
“The 500-metre-long replacement seawall will be more than three metres high and protect the Tuvaluan community for years to come.”
Mr Hall said Tuvaluans and Fijians made up the majority of the project workforce, with six Tuvaluan locals trained as truck drivers, machine operators and leading hands as part of the works.
“Where possible, we aim to source all general and skilled laborers from the island where the project is based, and we’re proud to have a total of 19 Pacific Islanders working as part of our team in Nukufetau.”
Mr Hall said while the remote location of work site presented a unique set of challenges, the Hall Pacific team was well-equipped to tackle the task at hand.
“We pride ourselves on delivering complex projects in remote locations and have a lot of experience in this area,” Mr Hall said.
“Logistically, Nukufetau is only accessible by sea, which means our crews are flown to the main island of Funafuti, and then travel by ship for a further 10 hours until they reach the atoll.”
“To ensure we can accommodate workers in the remote camp, we have mobilised all equipment and supplies on our barge, including excavators, trucks, food, fuel and water.”
An Australian-owned company, Hall Pacific services the Pacific Islands region and specialises in climate change adaptation. It has offices in Fiji, Australia and Malaysia.