Boatbuilding in the very central Pacific with KiriCraft Central Pacific

Tetobe II – a 20m passenger/cargo interisland vessel which commenced commercial operations with the Kiribati Uniting Church in December 2022.

KiriCraft Central Pacific is a high-quality boatbuilding factory [covering over 1000sqm] based in the Republic of Kiribati; a small island nation located in the central Pacific Ocean. Established in 1997 under the name Betiraoi Boatbuilding (betiraoi means ‘float well’ in Kiribati), it then evolved into KiriCraft Central Pacific, reflecting its expanded focus and outreach efforts to encompass a wider range of communities and cultures within the region. Since its inception, KiriCraft Central Pacific has built and delivered/exported 30 crafts of up to 20 metres.

The development and success of KiriCraft Central Pacific can be attributed to Founder and CEO, Michael Savins. Savins, a professional Australian boatbuilder with over 45 years’ experience, and his hardworking wife, Riteta Savins, a Kiribati national, both recognised the importance of preserving and promoting traditional crafting techniques and skills that had been passed down through generations. This all began while volunteering in Kiribati, building new designed outrigger canoes.

In 1985, Savins built the first prototype, a 11m single-outrigger passenger transport canoe – and watched it evolve. Since then, the craft has catered for the transportation demand of the communities of North and South Tarawa. In 2006, KiriCraft Central Pacific built high-finished epoxy composite pleasure crafts, specifically catamarans, for the Australian market; a total of 6 high-finished catamarans were exported until the world financial crisis.

With a total of 20 staff [4 of which are women], KiriCraft Central Pacific also works closely with artisans and craftsmen from across the country to provide them with a platform to showcase their work and to promote their skills and traditions. Crafts built range from single-outrigger canoes to power catamarans. Production materials are sourced from Fiji and Australia, but these have become costly to obtain, especially with the drastic increase in freight costs caused by COVID-19.

Today’s improved markets for pleasure crafts has very much set the pace, revamping the industry in Kiribati to manufacture and export more. KiriCraft Central Pacific continues to build a sustainable and thriving craft industry that celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the region. At present, it exports only to Australia and hopes to become a viable export industry in the Republic of Kiribati with a name for quality – while providing secure and long-term employment opportunities for the island nation.

MV Saint John – a 12.8m passenger transport canoe with the latest outrigger design to improve safety in this expanding marine transport sector. MV Saint John commenced commercial operations in December 2022.
Vacuum-bagging foam cores on an entire side of an 11.5m power catamaran (December 2022).
In the assembly stage, solid laminate round bilge in the water hull shoes will be secondary bonded with the superior qualities of epoxy laminates. The various component molds allow impressive build times for these high value crafts (February 2023).