The reason for the recent arrival of the regional council’s multi role workboat Awanui in Tauranga can be laid squarely at the feet of the Great Mobil Oil Spill of Anzac weekend 2015.
An estimated 1500 litres of heavy fuel oil spilled into the harbour under the Mount Maunganui wharf and carried by an incoming tide and gale force northerlies, was blown up the harbour as far as Maungatapu.
“There isn’t anything different we could have done on the day that spill happened, because the weather was atrocious,” says regional harbourmaster Peter Buell. “But we looked at it and said, ‘But what if the spill had happened on another day? Are we as well equipped as we think we should be? And the answer was we thought we could do better.
“So that was the starting point for what we looked at here. But when you look at a vessel like this you don’t want it to be just for oil spills, because that’s a lot of money for something that would never get used or very rarely used.
“By adding the navigation aid function to it, it becomes a vessel we will be able use an awful lot. She becomes very capable for us and has a multi-role function.”
Awanui looks like a landing craft. It has bow doors, a Palfinger crane on starboard, and a spud on the portside. A spud is a long pole that is used to keep the craft in one place, with more precision that is offered by an anchor. Powered by twin Suzuki 250hp outboards it has a top speed of 30 knots light, says Peter. Awanui made the delivery voyage from Auckland in seven and a half hours.
Also part of the equipment is the oil skimmer that can be deployed and recovered by the crane, either over the side or through the opened bow ramp.
Awanui has two primary roles; oil spill response and navigation aid maintenance.
“All of the navigation aids in the smaller channels, once you get out of the main shipping channel, we will start doing all the maintenance on them,” says Peter.
“The bow door is partially for the skimmer but the other thing is we carry quite a payload, we can carry up to seven tonnes.
“We can carry a ute if needed. If we need to support the civil defence people or someone else to get somewhere then we are quite capable of doing that.”
Awanui was built by McMullen and Wing in Auckland and is similar to one built for Auckland a few years ago.
“We were able to go to school quite a bit in terms of the Auckland barge, and learn from them from them having used it for a couple of years – what they would have done differently. So we were able to learn from that and make some improvements on it.”
Awanui can do 30 knots when she’s light, or 20 knots with a ute on board. She draws about 300mm to 500mm towards the engines at the stern.
Awanui cost just under $600,000, but with auxiliary equipment like the skimmer the total cost is $624,000.
At the dedication regional council staff said the craft is named for two reasons, after the harbour – and former regional councillor the late Te Awanui Black.