Mapai Transport branches out to ‘rebalance’ trade links between Papua New Guinea and NZ


After 20 years building a successful transport company, Mapai Transport founder Jacob Luke is exploring ways to correct PNG’s trade imbalance with NZ, and providing training opportunities for young Papua New Guineans.

Mapai's Jacob Luke and Grant Wakerley.

Mapai’s Jacob Luke and Grant Wakerley.

After commencing operations in 1985 with a single vehicle, Mapai Transport now has a staff of more than 300, and a fleet of 70 prime movers, 170 trailers, 20 delivery trucks (spread between Lae, Goroka and Mt Hagen, and Port Moresby), side lifters, forklifts and more than 900 containers.

In 2008, founder Jacob Luke set up Mapai Customs & Forwarding Agency services, primarily as an added value service to ensure the smooth movement of Mapai’s clients’ freight into PNG.

Now, Luke is looking south for the next venture, and the scope is broader than transport and logistics.

A NZ company, Mapai (NZ) Ltd. was formed 12 months ago, with Grant Wakerley appointed International Logistics Manager.

NZ Venture

‘Jacob has clearly given the board the mandate to move the company from just a purely transport and logistics business to a training business that does transport and logistics to pay the bills,’ Wakerley tells Business Advantage PNG from his office in Auckland.

‘This is a fundamental mind shift within the business and establishing a branch in NZ is part of that shift.

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‘The team is currently exploring possibilities of trade within the Pacific region.’

‘The main driver for establishing an office in NZ is to boost export and import activities between PNG and NZ, particularly those companies that are working on exporting products from PNG to NZ.’

Pacific agriculture


Mapai Transport is one of the major freight providers along PNG’s Highlands Highway. Credit: Mapai Transport

The team is also currently exploring possibilities of trade within the Pacific region, particularly focused on the agricultural industry.

‘Mapai would like to participate in assisting this trade to happen,’ says Luke.

‘The NZ government has a number of initiatives around training for young Papua New Guineans, especially in agriculture, horticulture and science.’

‘We don’t necessarily have be the ones actually growing or be the end supplier, but we are hoping to be the catalyst to seeing things happen,’ adds Wakerley.

‘The driver is not income for Mapai. We want to see PNG create employment and income generating opportunities, particularly for the families in the remote rural areas,’ says Luke.


‘They also want to set up ‘good solid training opportunities’ for Mapai staff in NZ, ‘giving the young people opportunity to learn skills that will see them set up for life.’

‘The NZ government has a number of initiatives around training for young Papua New Guineans, especially in agriculture, horticulture and sciences. Mapai sees these as growth areas that PNG must take advantage of,’ says Luke.

Mapai executives have been talking to the Pacific Cooperation Foundation and the Pacific Trade and Invest, which link projects within the Pacific nations to countries requiring certain produce and high value-added products.

‘We want to ensure that PNG is in that mix’, says Wakerley.

Wider focus

‘The appointment of Kevin Christie as CEO of the Mapai Group based in Lae means Jacob and I can now focus our attention on the wider programme, which also includes a development project in Monokam in the Enga Province,’ notes Wakerley

The Monokam project involves building infrastructure, including schoolrooms, teachers’ housing, and community facilities, including an all weather market.

‘We also helped negotiate with the Asian Development Bank to fund and build a health clinic with maternity facilities,’ says Wakerley.

According to Statistics New Zealand, NZ exported NZ$ 183.74 million (K412 million) worth of goods in the year to September 2016, while it imported NZ$10.52 million (K23.59 million) worth of goods from PNG. The top PNG exports to NZ were coffee tea and spices (NZ$6.71 million/K15.05 million). PNG’s main import from NZ was meat (NZ$29.32 million/K65.75 million).


  1. Michael John Yanda says

    Awesome. Great entrepreneurial skills of a Papua New Guinean man breaking barriers. Congratulations Jacob Luke.

  2. Paul Posing says

    An inspiration to young upcoming entreprenuers like myself and many others.

  3. Wesley Warun says

    Congratulations Grant Luke. Only visionary leaders like you two can make impossible possible. This business venture has a big future and I can’t wait longer to see your (Mr Luke) materialising. Thank you

  4. A proof of nothing is impossible when one has a vision in Life. Excellently archived from a local mum and dad heritage is indeed Fantastically Fantastic. A a lesson to all citizens of PNG. MUST go into an Award Winning Listing. I Salute!

  5. Chris Gandi says

    The abillity of Mapai doing business and being successful over the years in the very volatile nation of Papua New Guinea and remain a leader in the freight and logistics industry over the years is a remarkable reflection of the sheer dedication and commitment and drive to be nothing but successful of Mr. Luke and his management team. For me Mapai has always been on top of its game since day one.

    Now being a multinational again shows that fearless drive and ambition to explore and conquer its boundaries. I like it when a company’s vision is not for itself but seeing itself as a participant in the facilitation and promotion of trade between PNG and the region through the provision and utilization of its freight and logistics network both locally and internationally. Congratulations Mapai.

  6. Phil Ryan says

    Awesome leadership and vision Jacob and Grant!

  7. Albert.Maru says

    Mapai has the potential to expand internationally. A successful achievement.

  8. This a big leap for Mapai and PNG as a whole. It is an initiative to provide opportunities for NZ nationals. We’ve received so much from Australia and NZ over time and such a initiative is breaking the barriers of PNG from outside perspective.

    We are able to provide opportunities for the needy in other developed countries too.

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