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Tahiti’s pioneering cargo-cruise line celebrates 40th anniversary

Aranui 5 will operate the company’s 40th birthday cruise in November
Compagnie Polynésienne de Transport Maritime (CPTM), a family-owned company founded in 1954 by Wing Wong that operates the freighter-passenger ship Aranui, will mark its official 40th birthday with a round voyage from Papeete November 16-27.

Aranui has evolved from a commercial shipping line to offer cargo cruises to remote islands in French Polynesia, where it has been delivering vital supplies like food, fuel and other staples.

The company launched Aranui I, a modified freighter with accommodation for 27 passengers, in 1984.

The 90-passenger Aranui 2 made her debut in 1990.

Aranui 3 carried 200 passengers and was launched in 2003.

Custom-built Aranui 5

The fully air-conditioned, custom-built  Aranui 5 (there is no 4, as the number is considered bad luck by the Tahitian-Chinese Wong family) made her maiden voyage in December 2015, with 254 passengers.

She sails to the remote islands of French Polynesia from Papeete, to the Marquesas, Australs, Tuamotus, Society Islands and beyond.

‘Serving the communities of the Marquesas Islands with our ongoing cargo deliveries, while providing countless incredible memories for our guests and crew over the years has truly been the experience of a lifetime,’ Laurent Wong, Australia and New Zealand representative, said.

Sustainable tourism

‘By providing a small and regular flow of tourists all year round for 40 years, Aranui’s presence in the Marquesas is a case study in sustainable tourism and has offered locals a reason to develop businesses and continue making traditional arts such as intricate bone and stone carvings and hand-crafted jewellery, helping to preserve ancient Polynesian customs for future generations,’ Wong said. 

Over the past 40 years more than 79,000 passengers from 35 countries have sailed across 645 voyages on an Aranui ship.

Passengers have visited 25 islands from all five French Polynesian archipelagoes, as well as three islands in the Cook Islands and Pitcairn Island, while travelling a distance totalling more than 1,350,000 nautical miles.

During that time, more than 688,000 tonnes of freight have been delivered.

2025 expansion

The company’s plans to build an all-passenger ship were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are now on hold indefinitely.

However, it is planning to operate to the southern Austral Islands next year, working with the remote communities to develop their economy and tourism in a slow, sustainable way.