Innovative underwater restaurant to be shifted through New Plymouth

The multi-million dollar underwater restaurant which will be shipped to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

The multi-million dollar underwater restaurant which will be shipped to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Creating a 450 tonne restaurant to sit underwater on a coral reef has taken a fair bit of Kiwi ingenuity.

Fitzroy Engineering in New Plymouth has spent almost 10 months building, painting and outfitting an underwater restaurant, the second in the world, for a resort in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Creating the 18 metre by 5 metre structure took some inventive techniques, said project manager Adrian van't Hof.

The Island where the restaurant will be placed under the water. Its future position is circled in red.
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The Island where the restaurant will be placed under the water. Its future position is circled in red.

For instance, working out how to weld the 80 tonne steel base of the restaurant into place wasn't easy.

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"We worked out a way of flipping it over rotisserie style so that we could weld both sides to keep it straight. It's been interesting more than challenging," van't Hof said. 

The inside of the restaurant during construction.
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The inside of the restaurant during construction.

He said the company was used to working on pressurised underwater vessels because of the work it did in the oil and gas industry.

The restaurant will sit on the side of a coral reef, with the right hand side facing the reef and and the left side looking out to sea.

The coral beneath the structure had been removed from the rocks and was being grown on concrete slabs, which would then be mounted onto the left hand side of the structure to attract fish.

Fitzroy Engineering' business development and marketing manager Mark Arnold said the restaurant was more like a dinning room, as the food would be prepared onshore and carried down in a dumbwaiter lift.

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Diners would access the restaurant by walking out to a hut above the water, before walking down a spiral staircase which would have two small windows that would give them a glimpse of what was to come.

The roof, sides and end wall of the dining room are made of acrylic, giving near panoramic views of the reef.

Arnold said managing the whole project, instead of just the construction, was a highlight for the company.

"One of the keys for us was to be able to manage all the sub-trades," he said. "We were able to deliver a complete project."

The structure would be trucked from Fitzroy Engineering's workshop in Waiwhakaiho to Port Taranaki on Tuesday night, leaving at 10.30pm and arriving about 4am on Wednesday morning.

A specialist ship is waiting offshore and would come in once the restaurant was at the port. 

The ship would then head to the Maldives, near the equator in the Indian Ocean, where the restaurant would be lowered into position and concreted in.

Arnold said the project was an example of how the company was diversifying with the downturn in the oil and gas sector.

"It's certainly something we would like to do more of," he said.

 - Stuff

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