The New Zealand Government has asked interested businesses to look at whether or not an airstrip for the remote atolls of Tokelau is feasible.
Tokelauans, who are New Zealand citizens, currently rely on a 20-year-old boat for all transport to and from the atolls.
That vessel has long been regarded as inappropriate for the route and for several years efforts have been made to locate a replacement.
Companies have now been asked to explore whether there is enough room on any one or all of the atolls for an airstrip, and whether a regular air service could be run cost-effectively.
It's understood the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, will announce a replacement ferry for the shorter term after meetings with the head of Tokelau at the Pacific Islands Forum summit, which is underway in Port Vila.