Just shy of five months since its official opening, we take a look at the development and inaugural operations of Vessel Works, the Tauranga Harbour marine precinct.
Vessel Works is Tauranga’s purpose-built marine servicing hub, catering for commercial and recreational vessels large and small. It brings an array of marine companies together around a 6300m2 heavy-duty hardstand. Hikinui, the Vessel Works mobile vessel-hoist, can lift vessels of up to 350 tonnes and 50m long, and move them around the site.
Stage 1 of the project is now in its final phase, with land sales to be finalised by end of June 2019 and the last touches to the infrastructure expected to be completed early in the new year.
The final 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 $12m, 5% above the $11.4m budget. The additional budget required will be covered by the precinct’s operations.
Precinct Director Phil Wardale says that the adjustments to the design of Vessel Works, its facilities and equipment has been all about future-proofing the precinct and its use by marine service providers, vessel owners and operators.
Up top of the list of new and improved features is the souped-up water treatment facility.
“The final design of the plant not only protects the harbour from potentially toxic discharges from the hardstand, 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”, said Phil.
“And 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.”
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.
Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout said this initiative is 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”, Cr. Clout said.
“It is also great to hear that the precinct’s operations have got off to a flying start”, he said.
Since August, twenty-one vessels have been lifted into and serviced at Vessel Works. The heaviest of these was a fishing vessel, weighing 298 tonnes and measuring 30m long; the lightest was a 10 metre-wide, high performance catamaran weighing 6 tonnes; and the most unusual 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.
The vessels 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. The longest stay to date was a 45m super yacht, which over a 15-week period received a new paint job from Vessel Works lot owner Super Yacht Coatings. All this business activity means a lot of workers on site, and in the 18 weeks since beginning of operations the Vessel Works team inducted over 400 workers onto the precinct.
Don Mattson, owner of Hutcheson Boat Builders, a Vessel Works lot owner and long-time operator at Sulphur Point, said that his company has been busier than expected over the past four months.
“We also contract some of our staff to Vessel Works to assist the vessel lifts and storage on the hardstand for servicing”, said Don.
“We’re having to provide staff a lot more than we thought we would, but that’s a good problem to have”, he said.
“And when I went out to the yard to check on my team earlier this week there were about 35 workers on site. A real hive of activity.”
Works will continue next year 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.