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Landmark boat launch for Nelson

Landmark boat launch for Nelson - Media Release

One of the biggest boats ever built in Nelson, and possibly the most complex multi-purpose vessel to come out of New Zealand, was launched at Port Nelson on the high tide around midnight last night.

The 30 metre Morobe Rainforest is a purpose designed and built passenger and cargo ferry that will service the coastline of the Morobe district in Papua New Guinea.

The Nelson build was the result of a marketing push between Nevil and Amber Basalaj from Challenge Marine and Pat Holmes from NZ Boat Sales. Local designer Richard McBride was engaged to bring together a vessel that met the multiple needs for transport and service of the Morobe villagers.

Nevil Basalaj says the $5m vessel was the dream of a PNG Government Minister, who worked with Challenge Marine Ltd to design and build the boat.

“I went with the Minister on a week-long trip in 2010 along the Morobe coastline to meet the people in the outlying villages and learn what they needed for the new vessel and to assess the coastal areas,” he says. “Having time to talk with the local villagers I realised there were special needs that we could help with – for example fish were spoiling before they got to market so we have a 10 tonne fish hold and a three-tonne-per-day ice maker on board. This means the vessel can bring ice to the villages for general food storage where there’s no electricity.”

The design of the Morobe Rainforest is focused on reliability, economy, safety and simplicity. Constructed from aluminium for low maintenance and long life, it is a combination vessel that will carry 120 passengers, 60 tons of freight and six crew. There are standard passenger cabins, a crew cabin, captain’s cabin,  a VIP cabin, a shop and medical clinic.

Crops can be stored in a coolstore and the main freight deck can carry general deck cargo, livestock, a vehicle, an excavator or a shipping container. There is a dangerous goods store for petrol and other flammable materials. Servicing the cargo area is a five tonne crane that can also  reach the below decks’ cargo hold.

Nevil says all these features were ‘a mighty challenge’ to fit into a 30 metre vessel.

“We have designed her to land directly on the beach with a large bow door-ramp, like a landing craft, that accesses the freight deck, ‘ he says. “Passengers can disembark via the ramp or side doors, so it means they can get on and off where there is no jetty or wharf.”

Maximum speed of the vessel is 14 knots, powered by twin diesel engines with fixed propellers, protected by two large strong keels. There are two diesel generator sets to supply power to the vessel. Safety equipment includes liferaft capacity for 150 people, child and adult life jackets plus a dedicated 4.2 metre rescue boat with a 40hp outboard motor.

“We are pleased that we were able to build this vessel right here in Nelson using our local expertise.”  Nevil says. “I made a promise to thousands of people that we would deliver them a vessel that will provide safe reliable transport and get their goods to market in good condition. We made good on that promise and we are positive about its future capabilities. I believe the Morobe Rainforest will be a catalyst for change for the people who live in these remote coastal villages.”

The vessel will undertake strict sea trial testing prior to leaving New Zealand.

Pat Holmes from NZ Boat Sales is optimistic there will be more orders to following this.

“It is exciting to be involved with Challenge Marine with their long history of building custom designed vessels. The ability to design all types of vessels for the client is a fantastic capability, seeing the Morobe Rainforest go from conception through to construction has been incredible and has provided perfect marketing tool,” he says. “We’ll be bringing people here to Nelson to see it in the final on-water stages and we’re confident there will be more orders, which would be a fantastic thing.”

Amber Basalaj says the project shows awareness that New Zealand is capable of this kind of build.

“The client wanted quality and they were also drawn by our ability to offer a full turnkey design and build project.” she says “We have exceeded our client’s expectations and I am looking forward to continuing our relationship with Papua New Guinea into the future.”

Challenge Marine will deliver the vessel to Port Moresby at the end of July, for an official launch, prior to the voyage to its new home port at Lae city.

The new build vessel has been supported by the PNG Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill. The New Zealand High Commissioner in PNG, Marion Crawshaw and her team has also been supportive in the cooperation of the NZ/PNG relationship.


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