Sealord’s new $70m vessel delayed after Norwegian builder goes bankrupt

STRANDED: The Tokatu was subject to much fanfare when it arrived in Port Nelson last month after a six-week voyage from Norway. Photo: Kate Russell.

The country’s largest fishing vessel that was triumphantly delivered from Norway to New Zealand last month at a cost of $70 million was until recently sitting lame in Port Nelson after the 50-year-old-company behind the build went into bankruptcy.

This means that Simek, based out of the small Norwegian town of Flekkefjord, cannot give its usual one-year guarantee to Sealord, the new owner of the vessel.

Sealord will instead have to wear the costs of any maintenance or repairs to the 81.75 metre Tokatu.

It is understood several local contractors were enlisted to help get the ship up to standard. The build of the Tokatu was three years in the making and it is the first ship to be added to the country’s deep-water fleet in over 20 years.

It arrived in Nelson last month after navigating through the Panama Canal on a six-week journey. It was meant to have begun a four-week fishing expedition on the West Coast the following week.

However, Sealord’s communication manager Julie North said it only started working late last Friday.

The name Tokatu comes from the Māori proverb “Te toka tu moana” - the rock that stands in the sea.

Julie said Sealord was “saddened” to hear of Simek’s bankruptcy and its potential impact on the town of Flekkefjord, where it employed 150 people – more than 10 per cent of the population.

The case recently appeared in Norwegian court where it was revealed that the company owed about NZ$15 million. The bankruptcy was announced not long after the ship’s delivery.

“It’s a really exciting boat and it will be really exciting,” Julie said. “It’s a great addition, but there are teething problems.”

Simek’s managing director Øyvind Iversen told the Nelson Weekly via email that the Sealord project “developed into a burden”.

“There are many facets to a situation like this and blame cannot be put on Sealord. Delay from sub suppliers must also be put as one major factor.”

He said the ship was delivered to a high standard but there would always be issues during the first few months.

“That is why a guarantee year is part of a contract like this, and I can only say I am sorry for not being able to be around as the support Sealord surely expected.”

Contractually the yard usually takes responsibility for any issues onboard a vessel like the Tokatu, regardless is it is a shipyard problem or a fit-out problem, he said.

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