16 Apr 2014

Marshallese turn to ships as planes prove unreliable

1:53 pm on 16 April 2014

More people in the Marshall Islands are travelling by sea as continuing problems with plane maintenance and poor runways plague the domestic air service.

Our correspondent Giff Johnson says the government-run Air Marshall Islands does not have enough money for spare parts and both its planes were grounded last week.

He says the larger plane is now flying again but the smaller plane, which can access more of the outer islands, is not expected to fly again until May.

He says a recent report has come out showing a dramatic decline in the number of people using domestic air services.

"As the airline has proved to be extremely unreliable because of it's difficulty in purchasing parts and keeping the planes on schedule, people have shifted more and more to using ships and boats, which is kind of going back 40 years before we had airplanes and all we had was ships."

Giff Johnson says the ocean travel has improved recently with Japanese investment in two new vessels servicing the outer islands.