Orange lifeboat to launch survival training sessions

01:00, Aug 11 2011

A bright orange lifeboat hanging from a new set of davits beside Wakefield Quay will soon become a regular sight in Nelson Haven as it is used to train students so that lives will be saved.

The boat and davits, made in China and supplied by a Singapore company, have cost the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology about $180,000.

Buying new was the more expensive option but it was money well spent, said NMIT's programme area leader maritime Katherine Walker.

She said lifeboat drills at sea were notorious for their accident rate. The lifeboat is capable of carrying 60 people but NMIT's Nelson Maritime School would only be seeking approval for a maximum of 30 and it was likely to be used by no more than 15 at a time, including several tutors.

The boat was lifted on to the davits on Tuesday night. Once its commissioning was completed it would probably be seen in the water about once every three weeks as groups of students went through their training, Captain Walker said.

They would learn how to safely launch a lifeboat and how to handle it. The boat, which is capable of running for 24 hours at 6 knots (11kmh), has already been tried out since its arrival in Nelson on a container ship.

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Although there are still some open lifeboats on ships using New Zealand ports, the enclosed type has become the standard and the new setup will put the school at the forefront of maritime survival craft training.

NMIT has leased the area, close to the Settlers' Memorial, from Port Nelson Ltd.

Harbourmaster Dave Duncan said the port company had encouraged the installation.

Meanwhile, the port company has moved a 29-metre pontoon wharf from beside the Sealord wharf to extend from the Old Main Wharf, close to the new lifeboat.

This would be used by Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle from September to March as a base for its trips to the Abel Tasman National Park, with visiting superyachts able to tie up at the western side, Captain Duncan said.

"It's a better location for the superyachts visiting Nelson for access to restaurants, the town and that sort of thing."

A ramp is yet to be built to give access from the wharf to the floating pontoon. Access to the wharf is currently closed to the public while work continues but once the job was completed it would usually be open, though there might be some closures at the request of the superyacht owners.

The biggest superyachts, some of which are 100m long, could continue to use the existing "lay-up three" site adjoining Sealord, he said.

The Nelson Mail