United Nations
Implementing a Pan-Pacific Network of Traditionally Designed Sustainable Sea Transportation
by Okeanos Foundation for the Sea (Philanthropic organization)
Okeanos Foundation for the Sea is committed to helping the people of Pacific islands become economically resilient while preserving, and building upon, their cultural practice and knowledge. For nearly a decade, Okeanos has been supporting the Pacific voyaging renaissance by building traditionally designed sailing canoes, while supporting navigational training, for more than ten island communities. The real world use and implementation of Okeanos produced sailing canoes in Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Vanuatu is realization of potential and need for a pan-Pacific network of traditionally designed sustainable sea transportation.

It is the mission of Okeanos to provide fossil-fuel free sea transportation to vulnerable Pacific islands to help fulfill unlimited regional needs for transport of cargo, people, medicine and supplies. Today, Okeanos is building single masted double hulled sailing canoes called VAKA MOTUS able to transport three tons of cargo and are internationally certified for open ocean commercial use. Vaka Motus are also used for disaster relief and for traditional culture, education and scientific research platforms.

Through establishment of limited businesses employing and training Pacific islanders, Okeanos builds, operates and transfers Vaka Motu sailing canoes equipped with modern technologies such as solar panels and coconut oil engines. Okeanos’ mission is to support Pacific communities as they build upon ingenious traditional knowledge to prepare for the future.

Vaka Motu Sustainable Sea Transportation Public Service Uses:
*Disaster Preparedness - a pan-Pacific emergency response network
*Scientific Research Platforms
*Ocean Monitoring Infrastructure
*Education and Ocean Stewardship

Vaka Motu Sustainable Sea Transportation Private and Commercial Service Opportunities:
*Sustainable community led business initiatives
*Cargo and Passenger transportation
*Culture and History Based Tourism
*Ecotourism (whale watching and shark sanctuaries)
*Boat Building and Technical Maintenance
*Workforce Development Training Certificates

Benefits of use:
*Promote eco-tourism, observation and assessment of marine protected areas, reach and service remote people in outer islands, especially during climate disasters.
*Support development of coconut oil processing for biofuel throughout the island (reduces dependence on fossil fuel).
*Reduce marine pollution and minimize ocean acidification as Vaka Motus sail on wind and solar (renewable energy), and coconut oil.
*Economic benefits to SIDS by establishing training centers throughout the Pacific and boat- yards on the islands operated by Pacific islanders.
*Implementation of Vaka Motus is accompanied by skilled training in boat building and maintenance, sailing, navigation, ocean monitoring and data collection, and small business development.
*Increase scientific knowledge of ocean ecosystems - Vaka Motus outfitted with ocean sensing devices would provide sustained data-streams that are critical contributions to the Global Ocean Observing System; training of local islands in ocean monitoring builds the region's capacity for environmental management, forecasting, storm prediction and climate change preparedness.

Sustainable Business Model:
Limited business models regulated and run by local islands based on competitive use of the Vaka Motus. All profits generated by the Vaka Motus’ activities are maintained/reinvested within their respective countries. The profits are managed by a locally run non-profit on-island foundation that supervises the appropriate use of funds to advance traditionally-designed, sustainable sea transportation and education.
Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Sustainable sea transportation
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Sustainable sea transportation
Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
Type of commitment
  • CO2 emission reductions (energy efficiency, renewable energy, etc.)
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
Type of commitment
  • Economic benefits from sustainable tourism
  • Economic benefits from sustainable transport
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Scientific, socioeconomic and interdisciplinary research
  • Training and professional development
  • Transfer marine technology
  • Actions that support SIDS and LDCs
By 2017, complete the building of four Vaka Motus. Train local island crew and skippers for Sustainable Sea Transportation for small businesses using Vaka Motus in Vanuatu and New Zealand and the Marshall Islands.
By 2018, complete building of two more Vaka Motus as the basis for a Pan-Pacific traditional open ocean canoe network for disaster relief and sustainable sea transportation. Establish training centers on Pacific islands for traditional open ocean canoe crew training of sailors, captains and managing directors of Vaka Motus for limited sustainable sea transportation businesses. Expand island capacity for young Pacific islanders in navigation, small business enterprises, data collection and monitoring, and public and community ocean and traditional education. Establish educational and cultural partnerships for use of Vaka Motus to preserve and advance lived Pacific culture while also using Vaka Motus as platform for hands-on science and math learning within culturally appropriate contexts.
By 2019, establish a boat yard within a Pacific island country to build traditionally designed sustainable sea transportation and build capacity of young Pacific islanders as boat builders, sailors, navigators and small business operators.
By 2020, establish research partnerships to study best conditions for community-led placed based and culturally appropriate environmental management. Explore new policies and regulations for appropriate maritime laws for traditional sailing canoe commercial operations. Assist in establishing research partnerships for the implementation of low cost traditional canoe-based ocean monitoring and data collection systems accompanied by training of Pacific islanders as ocean health monitors.
Staff / Technical expertise
Traditional open ocean canoe crew training of sailors, captains and managing directors of Vaka Motu limited sustainable sea transportation businesses
In-kind contribution
Building of vaka motus (traditionally designed sustainable sea transportation) to be used by Pacific island nations for transportation, education and cultural preservation purposes.
Basic information
Time-frame: 01/2017 - 12/2020
GLISPA, Government of Palau, Polynesia Voyaging Society, Samoa Voyaging Society, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Pew Global Ocean Legacy, Ocean Preservation Society, The Safina Center, Conservation International, Mission Blue, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), Republic of Marshall Islands, Cook Islands Voyaging Society, 500 Sails, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Government of Cook Islands, Tonga Voyaging Society, Tahiti Voyaging Society, University of Auckland Centre for Pacific Studies
Ocean Basins
  • North Pacific
  • South Pacific
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Pacific island nations, international island nations and coastal communities.
Contact information
Dena Seidel, Director, dena.seidel@okeanos-foundation.org, 908-421-6245
Highland Park, NJ USA
Other SDGs
United Nations