Port Vila

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Port Vila

Capital City
Port Vila aerial.jpg
Aerial view of central Port Vila
Flag of Port Vila.png
Vanuatu location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Port Vila
Location in Vanuatu
Coordinates: 17°44′S168°19′E / 17.733°S 168.317°E / -17.733; 168.317 Coordinates: 17°44′S168°19′E / 17.733°S 168.317°E / -17.733; 168.317
CountryFlag of Vanuatu.svg  Vanuatu
Province Shefa Province
Island Efate
  Mayor Erick Puyo Festa
  Total23.6 km2 (9.1 sq mi)
59 m (194 ft)
 (2016 census)
  Density2,200/km2 (5,600/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+11 (VUT)

Port Vila (French : Port-Vila), or simply Vila (English: /ˈvlə/ ; French : Vila; Bislama : Vila [viˈla] ), is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu and is on the island of Efate.


Its population in the last census (2009) was 44,040, [1] an increase of 35% on the previous census result (29,356 in 1999). In 2009, the population of Port Vila formed 18.8% of the country's population, and 66.9% of the population of Efate.

On the south coast of the island of Efate, in Shefa Province, Port Vila is the economic and commercial centre of Vanuatu. The mayor is Erick Puyo Festa, of the Vanua'aku Pati, elected in January 2018; his deputy is Jenny Regenvanu, of the Graun mo Jastis Pati. [2]

On 13 March 2015, Port Vila bore extensive damage from Cyclone Pam. [3]


Locally the town is most commonly referred to simply as "Vila", whether in French or Bislama [viˈla] or in English /ˈvlə/ VEE-lə (not like English "villa").

The name of the area is Efil in the native South Efate language and Ifira in neighbouring Mele-Fila language. Vila is a variant of these names. Ifira is a small island in Vila harbour where many of the area's traditional landowners reside.


The area occupied by Port Vila has been inhabited by Melanesian people for thousands of years. In Autumn of 2004, an archaeological expedition known as Teouma discovered a burial site of 25 tombs containing three dozen skeletons of members of the Lapita culture. Pieces of ceramics found at the site were dated to the 13th century BC.

In May 1606, the first Europeans arrived at the island, led by the Portuguese explorers Pedro Fernandes de Queirós and Luis Vaz de Torres. [4] In the 19th century when the islands were known as the New Hebrides, the British possessed economic control of the zone, though by the end of 1880, the economic balance began to favour the French; this transition can be seen in its nickel mines of New Caledonia and plantations. French citizen Ferdinand Chevillard began buying and clearing land around Port Vila to be converted into the largest French plantation on the island. Instead, it was converted into the municipality of Franceville, which declared independence on 9 August 1889, though this only lasted until June of the following year.

It was the first self-governing nation to practice universal suffrage without distinction of sex or race. Although the population at the time consisted of about 500 native islanders and fewer than fifty whites, only the latter were permitted to hold office. One of the elected presidents was a US citizen by birth, R. D. Polk, a relative of American president James K. Polk. [5]

After 1887, the territory was jointly administered by the French and the British. This was formalized in 1906 as an Anglo-French Condominium. During World War II, Port Vila was an American and Australian airbase.

In 1987, Cyclone Uma severely damaged the city. A powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused minor damage in the capital and surrounding areas. The city suffered massive damage from a category 5 cyclone named Cyclone Pam in March 2015, whose eye wall passed just to the east of Port Vila.



Port Vila has a tropical climate, more specifically a tropical rainforest climate, with noticeably wetter and drier months. As the trade winds are almost permanent and cyclones are not rare in Port Vila, the climate is not equatorial but maritime trade-wind tropical climate. [6] Rainfall averages about 2,338.9 millimetres or 92.08 inches per year, and the wettest month is March. The driest month is September. There are 153 wet days in an average year. The area also has south-east trade winds. Temperatures do not vary very much at all throughout the year, and the record high is 35.6 °C or 96.1 °F. The coolest month, July, has an average high of 27 °C or 80.6 °F, and an average low of 18 °C or 64.4 °F. The hottest month, February, has an average high of 31.2 °C or 88.2 °F and an average low of 23 °C or 73.4 °F. The record low for Port Vila is 8.5 °C or 47.3 °F. Humidity is often high.

Climate data for Port Vila, Vanuatu (Bauerfield International Airport)
Record high °C (°F)35.0
Average high °C (°F)31.3
Daily mean °C (°F)26.4
Average low °C (°F)22.5
Record low °C (°F)15.8
Average rainfall mm (inches)316.1
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)15.416.618.517.112.911.310.
Average relative humidity (%)84858687858583828081828384
Mean monthly sunshine hours 220.1155.4198.4165.0170.5162.0148.8167.4174.0198.4180.0195.32,135.3
Mean daily sunshine hours
Source: Deutscher Wetterdienst [7]

Economy and transport

Port Vila is Vanuatu's most important harbour and the center of the country's trade. The international airport, Bauerfield International (VLI) is also located in the city. Air Vanuatu has its head office in Vanuatu House in Port Vila. [8]

Major industries in the city remain agriculture and fishing. Tourism is also becoming important, especially from Australia and New Zealand. There were over 50,000 visitors in 1997. [ citation needed ]

Vanuatu is a tax haven, and offshore financing in Port Vila is an important part of the economy.

Vanuatu is still dependent on foreign aid, most of which comes from Australia and New Zealand, although in recent years aid has also come from the People's Republic of China. One example was New Zealand paying to train doctors selected from the local community, then paying part of their wages during the first year after qualification. Australia has paid consultants to work in Port Vila Central Hospital.

35.7% of exports leave from Port Vila and 86.9% of imports arrive in Port Vila. [ citation needed ]



Cathedrale du Sacre-Coeur, Port Vila Port-Vila cath Sacre Coeur.JPG
Cathédrale du Sacré-Cœur, Port Vila

The population is around 45,000; predominately Melanesian, with small Polynesian, Asian, Australian and European populations, mainly French and British.


Port Vila is home to many languages, reflecting the country's high linguistic diversity.

The day-to-day lingua franca in the capital city is Bislama. In addition, English and French are also widespread.

Among Vanuatu's 100 indigenous languages, many are spoken in the capital, as people from rural areas come to live in the city, either temporarily or permanently.


Christianity is the predominant religion across Vanuatu, followed by more than 90% of the population. The largest denomination is the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu, followed by one third of the population. Roman Catholicism and the Church of Melanesia are also common, each about 15%. Cathédrale du Sacré-Cœur is a modern Roman Catholic cathedral in Port Vila. The seat of the Diocese of Port Vila, [9] the church is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. [10] On October 5th, 2020, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced plans to construct a temple in the city, and the Bahá'í community is also established in Port Vila. [11]

Culture and education

Highlights of the city

The capital of Vanuatu has various sights to offer. There are several memorials, e.g. opposite the Parliament where two traditional totem poles and a monument representing a pig's tusk can be seen. The Presbyterian Church of Port Vila is an impressive and sightworthy building opposite the Independence Park. A colourful wall painting can be seen on the administration building opposite the market hall. Another noteworthy wall painting is on the façade of the post office. The City Hall of Port Vila is an oblong and sightworthy building on a hill in the city centre.

Vanuatu Cultural Centre

The Vanuatu Cultural Centre, hosting the Vanuatu National Museum, is located at the Saralana Park in front of the national parliament, close to the National Library and the Malvatumauri (Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs). This institution is an important place for the preservation and promotion of the different aspects of the local culture. Traditional artifacts from several islands are on display in the museum. The centre host also the National Audiovisual Archives which is the most important fund of documents from the late 19th century until today.

World Heritage

Port Vila was the location in August 1999 for the ”2nd World Heritage Global Strategy Meeting for the Pacific Islands Region" held by UNESCO. One of the major topics related to Vanuatu and the Pacific region was the question of the suitability of underwater heritage for inscription on the World Heritage List. [12]


Port Vila is one location of the University of the South Pacific, an educational institution co-owned by twelve Pacific countries. The Vanuatu campus is the only law school in the university, and it also teaches languages.

Upper secondary (sixth form/senior high school) institutions include:

Junior secondary (seventh form to tenth form) institutions include:



The municipality of Port Vila is divided into four wards and administered by a council consisting of 14 members. The four wards are:

  1. Malapoa-Tagabe: Western and far northern neighborhoods
  2. Anabrou-Melcofe-Tassiriki: Northern and eastern neighborhoods
  3. Centre: Nambawan and Seaside neighborhoods
  4. South: Nambatu, Nambatri, and Elluk neighborhoods

Malapoa-Tagabe and South are allotted three representatives each to the council while Anabrou-Melcofe-Tassiriki and Centre have four. [13]

The municipality handles primary education, primary health care, regional planning, road maintenance and construction, trash collection, cemeteries, parks and open spaces and the promotion of tourism.

There are also informal settlements such as Blacksands which are effectively suburbs of Vila but are outside the municipality. Living conditions in some of these neighbourhoods are very poor, and lack of service provision and insecure land tenure are major problems. [14] Blacksands was squatted in the 1960s. [15]


Port Vila is one of the eighteen constituencies in Vanuatu, and elects six Members of Parliament. Following the 2016 general election, its representatives are: [16]

Kenneth Natapei Vanua'aku Pati
Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau Union of Moderate Parties
Jean Pierre Nirua Independent
Kalo Seule Green Confederation
Ephraim Kalsakau Independent
Ulrich Sumptoh Union of Moderate Parties

Twin towns – sister cities

Port Vila is twinned with:

Related Research Articles

Vanuatu Island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean

Vanuatu, officially the Republic of Vanuatu, is an island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 540 kilometres (340 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji.

Nouméa Capital of New Caledonia

Nouméa is the capital and largest city of the French special collectivity of New Caledonia. It is situated on a peninsula in the south of New Caledonia's main island, Grande Terre, and is home to the majority of the island's European, Polynesian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese populations, as well as many Melanesians, Ni-Vanuatu and Kanaks who work in one of the South Pacific's most industrialised cities. The city lies on a protected deepwater harbour that serves as the chief port for New Caledonia.


Efate is an island in the Pacific Ocean which is part of the Shefa Province in Vanuatu. It is also known as Île Vate.

Luganville Town in Sanma Province, Vanuatu

Luganville is the second largest city in Vanuatu. Its population is 16,312.

Pentecost Island

Pentecost Island is one of the 83 islands that make up the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.

Shefa Province

Shefa is one of the six provinces of Vanuatu, located in the center of the country and including the islands of Epi and Efate and the Shepherd Islands.


Paama is a small island in Malampa Province, Vanuatu.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Port-Vila

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Port-Vila in Vanuatu is a suffragan diocese of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nouméa.

Iririki Island resort in Shefa Province, Vanuatu

Iririki is a privately leased island, located in Mele Bay, near Port Vila, the Capital of Vanuatu. The whole island is owned and operated by Australian businessmen Shane Pettiona, Darren Pettiona and Peter Stockley.

Cyclone Ivy

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ivy was a tropical cyclone that affected about 25% of the population of Vanuatu in February 2004. It was first classified as a tropical disturbance on February 21 between Vanuatu and Fiji. The system tracked northwestward, gradually organizing and intensifying. After attaining tropical storm status on February 23, Ivy strengthened more quickly as it turned southwestward toward Vanuatu. It attained peak winds of 165 km/h (105 mph) while moving over Vanuatu, making it an intense Category 4 cyclone on the Australian Region Tropical Cyclone Intensity Scale. By the time it passed through Vanuatu, Ivy had turned southeastward, and it gradually weakened while accelerating. After becoming extratropical on February 28, it passed just east of New Zealand and eventually dissipated on March 2.

Culture of Vanuatu

This article presents an overview of the culture of Vanuatu.

Vanuatu Labour Party Vanautan political party

The Vanuatu Labour Party is a political party in Vanuatu. The party was established on 3 June 1987. It was founded on the initiative of various trade union organizations in order to contest the 1987 parliamentary election. The proposal to found the party was first presented by Ephraim Kalsakau, a leader of the Vanuatu Municipal Workers Union.

Vanuatu, officially known as the Republic of Vanuatu, is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 500 kilometres (310 mi) north-east of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea. The nation's largest town and the capital Port Vila is situated on Efate Island.

Cyclone Pam

Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam was tied with Cyclone Yasa in 2020 as the second most intense tropical cyclone of the South Pacific Ocean in terms of sustained winds and is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vanuatu. A total of 15–16 people lost their lives either directly or indirectly as a result of Pam with many others injured. The storm's impacts were also felt, albeit to a lesser extent, to other islands in the South Pacific, most notably the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and New Zealand. Pam is the third most intense storm of the South Pacific Ocean according to pressure, after Winston of 2016 and Zoe of 2002. It is also the second most intense tropical cyclone in 2015, only behind Hurricane Patricia. In addition, Pam is tied with Orson, Monica, Marcus, Fantala and Yasa for having the second strongest ten-minute maximum sustained winds in the Southern Hemisphere. Thousands of homes, schools and buildings were damaged or destroyed, with an estimated 3,300 people displaced as a result.

Mele-Fila (Ifira-Mele) is a Polynesian language spoken in Mele and Ifira on the island of Efate in Vanuatu. In spite of their differences, Mele and Fila are two dialects of the same language and are mutually intelligible. French and English are also fairly common among the residents of Efate.

Cyclone Fran

Severe Tropical Cyclone Fran was the third tropical cyclone within four weeks to impact Vanuatu in 1992. Fran formed on March 4 and then gradually intensified. Winds reached gale-force on March 5, and hurricane-force a few days later. Cyclone Fran reached the powerful Category 5 equivalent on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale near Vanuatu. The storm weakened somewhat due to land interaction, but briefly re-intensified after moving away from land. Fran gradually weakened over the next several days over less favorable conditions. Meanwhile, the storm passed north of New Caledonia. Eventually, as a Category 2 system on the Australian scale, Fran made landfall on Queensland during March 16. Severe Tropical Cyclone Fran turned towards the southeast and eventually headed back out to sea. The system dissipated the next day. On Efate, over 130 houses lost roofs. Along Queensland, two rivers sustained major flooding, but no deaths were attributed to this cyclone. Total damage from the system was AU$8–10 million. Moderate damage was also reported in Fiji. In New Caledonia, the storm brought flooding and landslides.

Cyclone Betsy

Severe Tropical Cyclone Betsy impacted 8 island nations.

The Interchange Cable Network is a series of subsea fiber optic cables currently being built/planned by Vanuatu based company Interchange Limited. The first cable, ICN1 linking Fiji To Vanuatu was ready for service on 15 January 2014. Simon Fletcher, Chief Executive Officer of Interchange, confirmed that some operators have signed up for capacity but several configuration and commissioning matters are yet to be attended to before the service can be offered to their clients.

Squatting in Vanuatu

Squatting in Vanuatu is the occupation of unused land or derelict buildings without the permission of the owner. The Republic of Vanuatu is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. After independence in 1980, informal settlements developed in cities such as Luganville and the capital Port Vila. Land in Vanuatu is either custom land owned by indigenous peoples or public land owned by the republic.


  1. Vanuatu National Statistics Office 2009, The 2009 Vanuatu National Population And Housing Census [ permanent dead link ], Government of Vanuatu, Port Vila.
  2. "Puyo-Festa New mayor for Port Vila", Loop Pacific, 27 March 2020
  3. Andrew Freedman (13 March 2015). "Monstrous Category 5 cyclone makes direct hit on tiny Vanuatu". Mashable.
  4. Hence the Portuguese name "vila" which designates a small urban settlement in opposition to its rural context
  5. "Wee, Small Republics: A Few Examples of Popular Government," Hawaiian Gazette, 1 Nov 1895, p. 1
  6. "Climatologie" by Pierre Estienne and Alain Godard, Éditions Armand Colin ( ISBN   2-200-31042-0) , "CHAPITRE XVI 1. Les climats équatoriaux et subéquatoriaux 2. Les climats tropicaux 3. Les climats d'alizé 4. Les climats de montagne LES CLIMATS DE LA ZONE INTERTROPICALE : LES VARIÉTÉS", pages 314, 315 and 322.
  7. "Klimatafel von Vila (Int. Flugh.) / Insel Efaté / Vanuatu (Neue Hebriden)" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961-1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  8. "Contact Us." Air Vanuatu. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  9. "Cathédrale du Sacré-Coeur". GCatholic.org. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  10. Les Missions catholiques (in French). 1938. p. 294.
  11. "Bahá'í Community of Vanuatu". bahai.org. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  12. "Second World Heritage Global Strategy Meeting for the Pacific, Port Vila (Vanuatu) 24-27 August 1999".
  13. "1. Composition of Port Vila Municipal Council".
  14. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. Hill, David; Chung, Margaret (2020). "Urban informal settlements in Vanuatu: Challenge for equitable development" (PDF). Report prepared for Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Pacific Operation Centre. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  16. "Members of the 11th Legislature of Parliament" Archived 29 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine , Parliament of Vanuatu
  17. "Sister cities between Borabora and Port Vila". Daily Post. 11 May 2019. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  18. 1 2 "New Caledonia Enhances Ties With Vanuatu Capital City". pireport.org. Pacific Islands Report. 13 March 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  19. "Foshan doctors here to treat children". sista.com.vu. Sista. 10 January 2020. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  20. "Mayor Sumptoh to renew 22-year-old relations with Shanghai". Daily Post. 15 October 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  21. "银川市友好城市及交流合作情况". yinchuan.gov.cn (in Chinese). Yinchuan. Retrieved 20 July 2020.