A local boat-building milestone was reached in Opua today with the launch of what is believed to be the largest vessel built in the Far North in recent times, a 60-tonne commercial fishing boat commissioned by Nat and Adam Davey of Russell-based Medea Fishing Company.
The 22.25m commercial bottom-lining vessel called ‘Manakai’, meaning ‘spirit of the ocean’ in Hawaiian, was built to the Daveys precise specifications and strict 40D unlimited survey standards by Bluefix Boatworks, based in the Opua Marine Hub. She has been built with a combination of wood and composite materials and is powered by two 300hp Scania engines.
State-of-the-art Wide Angle Sonar Seafloor Profiler (WASSP) electronics on board the vessel will profile the seabed up to 100 times faster than other systems. The technology was paid for by this year’s Top Energy Business Development Fund grant and will enhance Medea Fishing Company’s commercial operation, contributing further to local employment and economic opportunities generated by the project.
The build took 16 months, cost more than $4 million and involved many marine services businesses based in and around Opua, and professional service providers based around the region.
Bluefix Boatworks employed 10 new staff and contractors on the back of the project, bringing to 30 the number of people it now employs in Opua. These workers and 10 further full-time staff will be needed for another “mammoth” 18-month project due to start immediately.
Bluefix Boatworks, owned by Northlanders Brad and Charlotte Rowe, re-located to Opua five years ago as part of a commercial rejuvenation project there supported by Far North Holdings, the commercial and economic development arm of the Far North District Council.
It moved into new, state-of-the art boat-building and paint shop facilities built by Far North Holdings. The $1 million project created a purpose-built facility with Travellift bays, accessed through roller doors 11m high and 10m wide that allow for under-cover boat-building and repairs all year round. Bluefix has since purchased the facility.
The move has been good for the growing business, which specialises in high-end custom boat-building and high quality refits and repairs. It has more than doubled the number of people it employs and is benefitting from a lot of refit and repair work it didn’t get when it was based near Kerikeri.
“We’re exceptionally lucky to have been able to build here a hugely talented team, comprising some people recognised internationally as world-leaders in their crafts,” Mrs Rowe said.
In addition to its boat-building and other high-end work Bluefix Boatworks provides high-quality repair, re-fit and maintenance service to local and visiting boat owners.
Far North Holdings general manager Chris Galbraith said Bluefix’s presence in Opua had taken boat-building and repair services there to “a completely new level.”
“World-class boat-building, repair, maintenance and painting facilities were an important part of our long-term plan for the Bay of Islands,” said Mr Galbraith. “As we have seen today the Opua Marine Hub is stimulating economic development, creating employment and delivering significant value to Far North ratepayers. All of which Far North Holdings is tasked by its owner, the Far North District Council, to deliver.”
Mrs Rowe said it was important for the Far North that Opua builds a reputation throughout the South Pacific as a place to come for quality refit, repair and boat-building work. Otherwise boat-owners would simply go to Whangarei or Auckland.
“Given the immense skills that exist here, and the chance we have to generate a decent bit of economic development, that would be a huge opportunity missed,” she said.
‘Manakai’ was launched with the Bay of Islands Marina’s Roodberg 60-tonne haul-out trailer. She will be berthed at the marina’s work-berth while sea-trials and fit-out are completed, before moving to her mooring in Russell.