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New Nelson Coastguard boat takes shape

Aimex Service Group managing director-founder Steve Sullivan, left, Nelson Coastguard Unit president Peter Kara and Sealord chief operating officer Doug Paulin as work gets under way on a new Nelson Coastguard rescue boat.

The construction of a new purpose-built Nelson Coastguard rescue boat is under way.

With the aluminium hull framing almost complete, the $1.4 million state-of-the-art boat is taking shape in the Port Nelson workshop of marine engineering and shipbuilding company Aimex Service Group.

Aimex managing director-founder Steve Sullivan at the weekend said the team expected to begin fixing the hull plating this week.

Nelson Coastguard had put the build of the boat on hold due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, confirmation in late May that fishing company Sealord was committing $215,000 to the project meant the work could start.

Aimex Service Group managing director-founder Steve Sullivan beside the new Nelson Coastguard rescue boat, which is under construction in his company’s workshop.

Unit president Peter Kara said Nelson Coastguard’s current boat was too small, 17 years old and needed “considerable maintenance”.

“Despite the challenges of Covid-19 disrupting businesses and many facing hardship, Sealord has come to the party to ensure we can continue with our much-needed project,” Kara said. “This will be our first new vessel that’s been purpose-built for the region, engaging a number of local firms to help make it happen.”

Just $200,000 was now needed to enable the completion of the new boat on schedule in January 2021. A fundraising campaign for the project was launched in May 2018 and has drawn wide community support.

The hull plating will soon be fixed to the framing of the boat.

Sealord chief operating officer Doug Paulin said Sealord had been a long-time supporter of the Nelson Coastguard.

“Like them, we are focused on safety both on land, and given our fishing operations, also at sea,” Paulin said. “We sponsored the build and subsequent renovation of the Rescue Centre several decades ago and we will continue to be involved over the long term.”

As a major employer and contributor to the Nelson economy, Sealord was keen to continue to support the community “particularly at times like these”.

“This is a significant project and fits well with the message for locals to support locals post Covid-19,” Paulin said. “The boat has been designed in the top of the south by Naiad, based in Picton, and is being built by Aimex here in Nelson. That’s pretty cool.”

Nelson Coastguard’s current rescue boat is about 17 years old and in need of considerable maintenance.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said the contribution from Sealord was well timed, given the need to stimulate the Nelson economy as it recovered from the Covid-19 lockdown.

“It’s great to see this investment benefit our local economy so directly,” Reese said. “Having the boat built here in Nelson means more high-skilled work for our region, and is exactly the sort of project that will see us rise to the challenge posed by Covid-19.”

A concept drawing of the new boat.

Sullivan, who is battling a blanket ban on foreign ships coming into New Zealand for repairs, said Aimex was thrilled at being involved with a project “so vital and worthwhile” for the community, a project Aimex had also sponsored.

“Getting this crucial project under way is very pleasing, both for its significance to the community, but also for our business having lost some projects during alert level 4 due to Covid-19,” Sullivan said. “Life-saving vessels come with a high level of detail and we’re excited about the innovations we can deliver to enhance its critical performance. This project is a true collaboration with all the parties involved.”

The new rescue boat is to feature an enclosed wheelhouse to accommodate crew and survivors out of the weather and will have space for a purpose-built stretcher bay. It will also have state-of-the-art twin Hamilton jet units for versatility and safety as well as greater operating endurance to stay at sea for longer along with an estimated top speed of 38 knots.

Nelson Coastguard covers one of the largest geographical areas in New Zealand. In 2019, the team rescued 80 people.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the project, could visit for more information, or call the Nelson Coastguard secretary on 027 4474 186.

Sealord is to have naming rights sponsorship for the boat’s lifetime of about 20 years.

The new boat is expected to have an estimated top speed of 38 knots.

Credit: Cherie Sivignon, Stuff

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