Story and photos by Jeremy Ruane
Milburn Carrier II is currently in dry dock at Lyttelton, and is set to return to work early next week. She'll be fully operational until at least March, by which time Buffalo, her replacement, will be fully commissioned for work on the New Zealand coast.
Buffalo recently arrived in the country after undergoing modification work in Singapore, and is scheduled to lay up in Nelson until early March. She's quite a distinctive-looking ship - you'll see her pink hull a mile off! (Not that we'll ever see it on the Manukau, of course!)
Westport, meanwhile, took just under eight weeks to traverse the seas between Onehunga and Gdynia, Poland, where she went into dry dock. She was given a thorough survey, and a new coat of paint, before carrying her first load of cement for her new owners just after Christmas, travelling between Slite and Malmo in Sweden.
Just before Christmas we were treated to the second-ever visit of Gas Defiance at the LPG Terminal in the Papakura Channel. That discharge should be sufficient to supply LPG to the upper North Island for the next four months or so. Another LPG carrier which has headed down 'LPG Alley' in recent years, Arago, is currently in the Devonport dry dock.
No More Tika
By the time you read this, Tika, the tug which has been the mainstay at Onehunga since mid-2001, will have sailed from the Port for the final time. She is due to depart circa 16 January, once the forecast inclement weather clears. She has been sold to private interests, with the first stop on her delivery voyage being Whangarei, where she will undergo maintenance work, mainly in the wheelhouse area. The new owner is quite pleased with his acquisition, and says she has a fair few years in her still - good going for a tug built in 1971!
A steady stream of inshore fishing vessels have been making their way along the Purakau Channel en route to or from Onehunga since late November, coinciding with the annual commercial albacore (tuna) troll fishery period between December and May. The fleet usually starts to dissipate around Easter but until then the sight of trawlers of all shapes and sizes at Onehunga Wharf will be a common one.
During this period it won't be uncommon to see trawlers berthed two, three or even four abreast - great news for businesses like The Landing Restaurant & Bar, the local watering hole just across the road from the wharf. On 13 January there were 24 active trawlers in port, as well as Tika and the two derelicts which have long outstayed their welcome. There's no news yet as to when they'll finally disappear, but it wouldn't surprise me if a shipbreaker's yard is their ultimate destination.
As well as the tuna fleet, Sanford's oceangoing trawlers - San Rakaia and San Tongariro - are making regular visits, and they've recently been joined by a brand new trawler, the new flagship of the Moana Pacific fleet. The very handsome-looking state-of-the-art Santy Maria is 24m in length, crewed by six, and was launched in Nelson in September.
She is the first vessel in a $30m fleet renewal programme which MP are undertaking to modernise their fleet. Lest we forget, the average inshore fishing vessel is over forty years of age. Norman McLeod, for instance, is very likely the oldest such vessel still in operation. She was alongside at Onehunga once again earlier this month, and has been trawling the seas of this country since the day she was launched in 1942!