JUST weeks after a long-serving Australian tug headed to a new life in New Zealand, the reverse is occurring.

The former Switzer tug Karoo, most recently stationed at Albany, arrived at Port Taranaki on 7 May after sale to the port company. There it replaced the 40-year old Rupe.

Now Rupe is on its way to Newcastle, having been acquired by the Major Projects Group, described as having more than 40 years’ experience in industrial, marine and high-risk demolition services across Australia.

As a social enterprise, MPG donates half of its distributable profits to its environmental non-profit organisation Major Projects Foundation, which addresses marine pollution caused by World War Two shipwrecks. It conducts research and recovery missions, aiming to mitigate ongoing environmental threats.

Rupe departed Port Taranaki on Tuesday morning [28 May] and was given a rousing water salute from fellow tug Tuakana and was escorted by pilot launch Mikotahi.

Built by Sims Engineering, in Dunedin, in 1984, Rupe is unique as the only tractor-configured controllable thruster tug of its type in New Zealand, Port Taranaki said. The 28.8-metre tug had been a great performer for the port during its working life, not only working in harbour to support port operations, but also carrying out emergency towing, regular offtake support work at oil and gas fields off Taranaki, and salvage work.

“Rupe has been a valued part of the Port Taranaki fleet. She has been very reliable, handled well in all conditions, and provided sterling service throughout,” Port Taranaki marine manager Ben Martin said.

“However, as vessels have become larger and more powerful, her design and bollard pull of 29 tonnes no longer suit our needs. Also, because of her age, it’s become difficult to source components and parts as replacements.

“It’s sad that we have to say farewell to a tug that was built new for Port Taranaki, served admirably, and has played a key part in the port’s history and growth, but we know she will be well looked after in her new home and by her new owners.”

“We purchased Rupe for our marine services division, where she’ll be used for marine demolition work, as well as barging and towing work across Australia,” Major Projects Group technical manager Sebastien Hammacher said.

“Additionally, we intend to use Rupe to assist in our mission to remove oil from World War Two shipwrecks, contributing to our ongoing efforts to protect marine environments.

Rupe looks like a great vessel and has been well looked after. We’re very pleased to have her as part of the team and look forward to utilising all her capabilities.”