Rupe leaves 23

A stalwart of the Port Taranaki fleet for 40 years has bid farewell to the region.

Tug Rupe, which was designed and built specifically for Port Taranaki, has been sold and left for Australia yesterday, where she will be used for marine demolition and towage.

As she left the harbour, she 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 her type in New Zealand. A tractor tug has its propellers at the bow, or front, while controllable thrusters provide additional manoeuvrability and control.

The 28.8m tug has been a great performer for the port during her 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.”

Rupe has been bought by Australian company Major Projects Group, which has more than 40 years’ experience in industrial, marine and high-risk demolition services across Australia.

As a social enterprise, Major Projects Group 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.

“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.”

Long-serving and recently retired Port Taranaki tug master Barry Govier, who spent many hours on Rupe, said the tug always “did her job and more”.

“If ever there was a vessel that punched above her weight, then it would be Rupe,” he said.

“When the port was looking to get a new tug that could handle our challenging west coast conditions and provide manoeuvrability, [former Port Taranaki operations manager and pilot] Ray Barlow saw the concept for this tug overseas and thought it would be perfect.

“Although she was built as a harbour tug, Ray had an open mind as to what was required of her on the west coast. She was very capable of handling seas and throughout her life this was proved time and time again.”

Mr Govier recounted the often twice weekly trips to the Tui oil field for offtake support at the Umuroa floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel.

“Often the conditions were unbelievable – four, five or even six metre swells and 40 knot winds – and she’d just battle her way through it.

“I had friends on the Umuroa who couldn’t believe this little toy boat was playing around in such big seas.”

Rupe also provided offshore support at the Maui gas field for offtakes to the Whakaaropai FPSO, carried out several coastal towing contracts, and provided assistance to disabled vessels.

“In 2010, when the container ship Spirit of Resolution hit the Manukau Bar and lost her rudder, Rupe went up there and brought her under control until she could be towed by a bigger vessel,” Mr Govier said.

“She was an amazing tug and served admirably.”

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