Construction has begun on a new Gare Maritime on the Quai de Moorea in downtown Papeete, Tahiti. Papeete is the third-largest port under the French flag (after Calais and Cherbourg) and a proper Maritime Terminal has been badly needed. Two million passengers and a quarter of a million motor vehicles travel between Tahiti and Moorea each year and until now the only facilities serving them have been a scattered assortment of ticket kiosks, public toilets, and sidewalk cafes. The new terminal should be able to accommodate shipping companies, car rental and travel agencies, maritime-related government offices, and restaurants. The current traffic jams whenever a ferry arrives will be eased and passengers will have a proper waiting room.
Ferry service from Tahiti to the Leeward Islands is about to be dramatically improved with the arrival of the 134-meter fast ferry King Tamatoa. Until recently the King Tamatoa served the route between Nice, France, and the island of Corsica but it should soon be cruising from Tahiti to Bora Bora. This large ferry can carry 983 passengers and 250 cars at speeds of up to 30 knots and it will eliminate the need to purchase an expensive plane ticket to get from Papeete to Huahine, Raiatea, and Bora Bora. Hopefully, the King Tamatoa will use the Gare Maritime and not be inconveniently based on Motu Uta.
The new Gare Maritime is only the latest in a series of ongoing improvements to the Papeete waterfront. The large cruiseship wharfs on the Quai d’Honneur were completed several years ago and extensive land reclamation along the foreshore has allowed the creation of a wonderful pedestrian promenade which now extends from the cruiseship wharfs to the Cultural Center. Sidewalk paving of a new park near Tahua To’ata is almost complete and its thatched pavilions will soon be available to the public.