New Zealand is providing Niue with its first dedicated search and rescue (SAR) vessel, with sea trials underway this week in Lyttelton.
The vessel is being provided as part of the second phase of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Pacific Maritime Safety Programme (PMSP2).
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee was on hand for the sea trials today, along with Niue’s High Commissioner to NZ, His Excellency Hon Fisa Pihigia.
The $367,000, 8.3m SAR vessel, with a top speed of 36 knots (66 km/h) has been constructed in Christchurch by ICON Custom Boats. Following completion of sea trials it will be shipped to Niue and officially handed over to the Niue Government on 18 October 2017, during the country’s Constitution celebrations.
The vessel will give Niue, for the first time, the ability to respond immediately to SAR incidents. Currently, when a SAR response is required this must be managed using vessels of opportunity. At times, when an EPIRB or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) has been activated, this has required a P3 Orion to fly from NZ to the area.
In future, the SAR vessel could be the first responder to such activations.
Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch said the new vessel would be a great asset for Niue.
“The people of Niue have a very close relationship with the sea, and it is important the country has the ability to respond immediately when things go wrong on the water,” he said.
“The vessel not only boosts Niue’s ability to look after its own people, but also provides an asset that can be accessed by the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ, if required.”
The PMSP2 programme is providing $8.13 million over three years to fund activities to improve maritime safety in the Pacific, focussing on the nations of Niue, Tokelau, Kiribati, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Tuvalu.
In addition to provision of the SAR vessel, the maritime safety programme in Niue includes a public education programme aimed at encouraging a culture of maritime safety in the country, provision of safety equipment for local fishermen, and working with the Government to enhance the regulatory framework for maritime safety.
Refurbishment work has also been carried out on the derrick at Sir Robert’s Wharf in Niue to enable the 3.5 tonne SAR vessel to be launched. This will also provide a safer means of getting other boats in and out of the water.
Niue has around 60 small boats , of less than five metres, used for fishing, and a further 120 fishermen using traditional vaka canoes.
Wider support and training provided by New Zealand across the Pacific region includes oil spill response simulations undertaken by Maritime New Zealand MPRS (Maritime Pollution Response Service) team, and SAR workshops run by the RCCNZ team. New Zealand also hosts Pacific nationals in local courses, such as piloting and SAR officer training.
Next year, a vessel for inter-atoll transport, also capable of SAR operations, will be provided to Tokelau.