FORMER Svitzer tug Karoo, which served at Albany until a recent towage upgrade, arrived at Port Taranaki this morning (7 May).

Karoo was sold as part of the upgrade and overhauled in Yamba before heading to the New Zeland port, where it replaces the 40-year-old Rupe, the oldest tug in the Taranaki fleet.

Port Taranaki bought Rupe new in 1984. Karoo was built in 1991.

The port highlighted the greater power and wider capabilities of Karoo. The stern drive tug is 30 metres long, with 50 tonnes of bollard pull, a large working deck and forward and aft winches.

“Rupe has been a very good and capable tug for Port Taranaki for the past 40 years,” Port Taranaki marine manager Ben Martin said.

“However, with vessels now larger and more powerful, her design and bollard pull of 29 tonnes are no longer appropriate for our needs.”

The stern-drive style of tug is new to Port Taranaki, whose current fleet consists of tractor tugs, where the propellers are at the bow.

“It’s a bit of a change for our team, and it gives us the opportunity to learn this configuration and realise the benefits of such a vessel for the Port Taranaki operating environment,” Mr Martin said.

Port Taranaki said Karoo’s power and certification to operate up to 200 nautical miles offshore made it “an attractive acquisition”, despite being built in the early nineties.  

“As with buying any second-hand vehicle, machinery or equipment, some compromises have to be made, and in this instance, we’ve had to compromise on the vessel’s age,” Mr Martin said.

“However, we believe her power, capabilities and the opportunities she provides the port in the future outweigh this.”

Port Taranaki chief executive Simon Craddock said the business had spent close to two years searching for the right tug to replace Rupe.

“Our fleet strategy has been adapted over that period as trade and market conditions have changed and new opportunities have arisen,” he said.

“The intent is that Karoo will serve up to the next 10 years at Port Taranaki, supporting our current trade and possible future trade opportunities, such as offshore wind developments and oil and gas decommissioning.”

There are no immediate plans to repaint Karoo in the signal orange of Port Taranaki’s other tugs,” Mr Craddock said.

“We would, however, like to give her a name that reflects her new home and the Taranaki region she’ll be operating in, so we’re in the process of working alongside Ngāti Te Whiti hapū on choosing a new name,” he said.

Karoo joins Tuakana and Kīnaki in the tug fleet. Kīnaki is the port’s newest tug, having been built in 2018 to replace the 45-year-old Kupe.

Port Taranaki’s tug crews will spend two weeks of training and familiarisation before Karoo is put into work.

Rupe has been put up for sale and will be released when sold.