The multi-million dollar job to repair and refurbish the fire-damaged Amaltal Columbia will be done at Port Nelson and mainly by Nelson companies, its owners say.
Talley's Nelson division chief executive Tony Hazlett said today he planned to have the trawler back fishing at the end of April after six months of work.
The deepsea factory trawler was the subject of a dramatic crew rescue last month when a fierce fire swept through the factory deck and caused the captain to issue an abandon ship order 75 kilometres offshore. It was towed into Lyttelton and then to Nelson, arriving on September 17.
Mr Hazlett said the cost was still being assessed but it would be in the millions.
"We've told our insurance company we'll have a good estimate within three weeks."
The fire's most severe effects were on the factory deck, which also houses the fishmeal plant. The rest of the vessel has suffered varying degrees of fire damage.
An earlier Mail report that the fire's signature could be seen on the length of the hull was incorrect. The dark markings were made by marine growth which has since been cleaned off.
"The reality is that we'll repair it and refurbish it," Mr Hazlett said.
Designers and engineers from the Danish shipyard which built the Columbia 20 years ago are in Nelson to assist with damage assessment and project planning.
Mr Hazlett said much of the ship's equipment and fittings could be re-used, while some machinery would have to be ordered from Europe.
"We're going to pretty much put it back to what it was like before, but with some updated equipment."
A project manager had been appointed and would be working with Nelson marine businesses.
"There's a very good skill base in Nelson here available to do it. What we've got to do now is get all the critical components re-ordered and then our project team will plan it all in," Mr Hazlett said.
While the work went ahead, Talley's would cover its fishing programme by deferring some non-essential maintenance on its other vessels and "working them hard". A fill-in ship would not be chartered.
Much of the Columbia has already been stripped, with 23 of the 63 crew involved in that job. Another 20 had been placed on other Talley's boats, with more jobs to come when crews rotate from voyage to voyage.
Of the remainder, some had elected to take an extended summer break and would rejoin the Columbia after the refit. They remained on the Talley's payroll.
The company was also taking advantage of the ship's lay-up by supporting crew members in further training as offshore watchkeepers, ship officers and deckhands.
Mr Hazlett said the fire was "not something we ever want to go through again".
However, a full review of the emergency had been done and it showed that the crew's training had worked.
"They did everything right, everyone was safe, no-one was panicking."
Safety training had been reinforced across the fleet and senior vessel management staff from Sealord had been shown through the Columbia to see the effects for themselves.
Mr Hazlett said it had been confirmed that the fire began in the fishmeal bagging room and had ignited empty fishmeal sacks before spreading.
The 350 tonnes of fish fillets unloaded from the ship in Lyttelton were in cool storage in Christchurch awaiting the results of tests that would determine their future, he said.
Sources had told the Mail it would cost $50 million to replace the Columbia with a new ship.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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