The new marine service hub for Tauranga Harbour’s Marine Precinct is showing strong growth following its official opening in August 2018. (See Bay of Plenty Business News cover story August/September 2018)
Featuring the country’s biggest boat hoist Hikinui, with 350 tonne lifting capability, the high-spec 6300 sqm hard stand is owned by Tauranga City Council’s Vessel Works. Around half a dozen marine companies have so far signed up for land and are at various stages in setting up or-re-establishing business operations around the hard stand.
Stage 1 of the project is now in its final phase, with the last touches to the infrastructure expected to be completed early in the New Year and the land sales to be finalised by the end of June 2019, according to Vessel Works.
When we went to press in January, some 21 vessels have been lifted into and serviced at Vessel Works since August, according to precinct director Phil Wardale.
The heaviest of these was a fishing vessel, weighed 298 tonnes and measured 30m long. The lightest so far has been a 10m-wide, high performance catamaran weighing 6 tonnes, and the most unusual vessel to use the hardstand was an unmanned autonomous underwater survey drone.
The median weight of lifts clocked in at 110 tonnes, showing that the precinct has attracted longer and heavier vessels than initially anticipated, said Wardale. Lifts have included the 45m long Encore, a superyacht originally built in Auckland, which weighed 235 tonnes. Bay of Plenty Business News visited the site late last year as Encore was being positioned for relaunch.
The longest stay to date was the 45m Encore, which over a 15-week period received a new paint job from Vessel Works lot owner Super Yacht Coatings. In addition, the permanent crew of five moved into the city for the duration of the maintenance work.Vessels have stayed for an average of 12 days on the hardstand, being worked on by the precinct’s marine companies and other suppliers from around Tauranga.
Wardale told Bay of Plenty Business News that work completed within the precinct has been variable between all vessels, and included mechanical, marine surveys, the application of underwater antifouling paint, and topsides paint.
“The yard has been as active as we could have expected with the vessels being lifted coming from within and outside the region.”
The business activity has had a significant impact on local employment activity at the site, with some 400 workers inducted onto the site since operations began, according to Vessel Works.
Don Mattson, owner of longtime Sulphur Point operator Hutcheson Boat Builders, said that his company had been busier than expected.
“We also contract some of our staff to Vessel Works to assist the vessel lifts and storage on the hardstand for servicing,” said Mattson.
“We’re having to provide staff a lot more than we thought we would, but that’s a good problem to have.”
The Marine Precinct as completed includes features and services that go well beyond the expectations of the project’s original business case in 2014.
These include the increased capacity vessel-hoist (initially proposed at 200 tonnes), a world-class water treatment system, stands and cradles able to handle larger vessels, and additional roading, water and electricity upgrades for the new lots.
The final project spend is estimated at $12 million, five percent above the $11.4 million budget. Vessel Works said the additional budget required would be covered by the precinct’s operations.
Wardale said the adjustments to the design of Vessel Works, its facilities and equipment had been about future-proofing the precinct and its use by marine service providers, vessel owners and operators.
Future- proofing facilities
At the top of the list of new and improved features was the upgraded water treatment facility. The system is now one of the largest bespoke wastewater treatment facilities at any vessel maintenance facility in the country, and one of the few to recycle the water.
“The final design of the plant protects the harbour from potentially toxic discharges from the hardstand,” said Wardale.
“And by collecting and processing all wash water; it goes one step beyond and recycles the wastewater back through the water blasting system we use to clean arriving vessels. We have built in enough capacity for the plant to be able to service a larger hardstand area, so we’re catering for any future stages of development of the precinct.”
Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said the initiative was a great example of forward thinking, and considered project management.
“This is council, as regulator, walking the talk and raising the bar from compliance to environmental stewardship,” said Clout, who commented that it was good to hear operations had got off to a flying start.
There have been media reports of complaints from some local fishing boats because of concerns about access to berthing. However, council has said work will continue to future-proof the existing facilities for the local fishing fleet and other vessels, with $600,000 worth of upgrades in progress on Bridge Wharf – the main deep-water berth at the precinct.
Council will also continue to monitor the usage of wharf space for catch offloading at the northern end of the precinct, and will evaluate whether the facilities can be improved, subject to a business case supporting further investment.