The government-owned Friendly Island Shipping Agency, formerly known as the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, at Queen Salote Wharf, Nuku'alofa, offers boat service among the Tonga Islands. In August 2009 a Shipping Corporation ship, the MV Princess Ashika, sank with the loss of 74 lives. After that disaster the Government of Japan donated the new inter-island ferry MV Otuanga'ofa to Tonga with a capacity of 400 passengers.
The ferry departs Nuku'alofa Monday night, arriving at Pangai very early Tuesday morning and Vava'u on Tuesday afternoon. It leaves Vava'u again Wednesday morning, calling at Pangai late Wednesday and arriving back in Nuku'alofa Thursday morning. In Ha'apai the ship calls at both Ha'afeva and Pangai. It's usually punctual.
Deck travel is sometimes very crowded, but when the ship isn't too full you can stretch out on the plastic benches or the floor in a clean, protected room. Cabins cost four times more. No meals are included. The Friendly Island Shipping Agency runs a boat from Vava'u to Niuatoputapu and Niuafo'ou every month or so.
The private Uata Shipping Lines, also known as the Walter Shipping Lines, has several red-and-white ships. One of these leaves Nuku'alofa Monday at 1700, reaching Pangai in the middle of the night and Vava'u Tuesday morning. It departs Vava'u for Ha'apai and Nuku'alofa Wednesday at 1300, stopping at Pangai late that night and reaching Nuku'alofa early Thursday morning. At other times, the ship might leave Nuku'alofa late Tuesday night and Vava'u Wednesday night. No cabins are available, but long padded benches are provided. Take food, water, and anti-seasickness pills. The loud music broadcast over the ship's public address system all night is a disadvantage.
Several boats shuttle back and forth between Nuku'alofa and 'Eua (1.5-2.5 hours). They usually depart Faua Jetty Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 1230, leaving 'Eua for the return around 0500 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. You pay onboard. The ferries may be canceled in choppy weather. However you go, be prepared for an extremely rough eastbound trip and a smoother, faster westbound voyage.
Note that all of the above information is only an indication of what might or should happen in ideal weather—the reality is often quite different. Make careful inquiries upon arrival and be prepared for a few delays.
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