A SELF-propelled barge to be used for bulk distribution and transhipment operations on New Zealand’s South Island is now on its way from Singapore.

Manahau, which means ‘brisk or active’ from Poutini Ngāi Tahu, underwent refit in the ASL shipyard in Batam, Indonesia, to bring it up to RINA class and Niue flag status, supported by Maritime New Zealand. Works include overhauled engines, azimuth drive shafts and bow thrusters, as well as brand new electronics, navigation equipment, accommodation, electrical wiring, and steel plates.

However, a fuel tank leak forced the vessel to return to drydock for repairs, before it departed Singapore to begin service for WMS Group, which comprises Westland Mineral Sands and West Coast Bulk Logistics. WMS is a miner and exporter of rare earth products and plans to revive the region’s coastal shipping network with Manahau, which was partly funded under the coastal shipping initiative of NZ’s National Land Transport Program.

To be sailing from shallow-draught ports Westport and Greymouth, Manahau has a capacity of 7000t (an increase from 6000t following the dock works) and is 98m long. WMS says it is smaller than previous vessels which operated successfully on the Buller and Grey rivers over many decades. Manahau draws between 1.9m and 4.5m fully laden – much less than the previous cement carriers – and does not require tug assistance. The vessel is specifically designed for river operations like those in Buller and Grey.

Manahau will initially go to Nelson, where it expected in early July, for customs clearance and Maritime New Zealand inspection. It will then move to Westport to load an inaugural shipment of heavy mineral sands for transfer to a deepsea bulker anchored in Buller Bay.

WMS Group MD Ray Mudgway said preparing for the barge’s arrival had been “an enormous amount of work, time and money involving an array of local and global experts to achieve the highest standards in port operations and shipping: “Her arrival will complete a long held and ambitious plan to see shipping and port operations resume on the West Coast.”