Drill ship taking shelter in bay

RIDING OUT BAD WEATHER: The Noble Discoverer in Tasman Bay with the lighthouse on the Boulder Bank in the foreground.
BILL EVANS
RIDING OUT BAD WEATHER: The Noble Discoverer in Tasman Bay with the lighthouse on the Boulder Bank in the foreground.

The drill ship Noble Discoverer, damaged in a recent storm off the North Island west coast, is now sheltering in Tasman Bay ahead of extreme weather and heavy swells forecast in the Tasman Sea over the next few days.

It has arrived in Nelson ahead of various other ships and tugs working the Taranaki oilfields, which plan to ride out the storm in Tasman Bay, said Port Nelson marine services supervisor Troy Dando.

He said the vessels, including anchor handling tugs and an oil tanker, would remain until about mid next week when a run of bad weather was expected to have passed.

Mr Dando said the oilfields had been hit with around 40 to 50 knots of wind from weather coming from down south in recent days and it was expected to intensify, bringing big swells with it.

Fairfax Media reported in May that the Noble Discoverer, which had been drilling the Ruru exploration well off the South Taranaki coast for operator Shell Todd Oil Services, had its mooring system and drilling equipment damaged when anchor lines snapped in a storm.

The company said that as a precautionary measure the crew disconnected the vessel from the wellhead before the storm hit, and closed in the well. When some of the eight anchor lines holding the vessel failed the remaining lines were disconnected and it was moved into deeper waters to ride out the storm.

Noble Discoverer was built in 1966 and was originally a bulk carrier called the Matsuhiro Maru. In 1976 it was converted for the energy exploration operations and renamed Frontier Discoverer.

The name was changed again to Noble Discoverer last year when drilling company Frontier Drilling merged with fellow driller Noble Corporation.

Nelson