Around 200 specialised workers will join Nelson's marine engineers when the longest ship to visit the city's port arrives shortly for a major refit, providing a month-long boost to the regional economy.
Maari oilfield operator OMV New Zealand announced last month that the giant MV Raroa, 250 metres long and 40m wide, would be refurbished and upgraded at Port Nelson.
The ship's arrival is weather dependent but it is due soon, and offshore installation multi-purpose ship the Skandi Hercules, one of the biggest of its type, has been at the port for the last few days after being sent with some of the materials required for the job.
"A lot of the contractors are flying in from out of town because they're specialised oil industry guys," Port Nelson Ltd chief executive Martin Byrne said. "There are about 200 people, we understand, and most of them are staying in motels, so there should be a good flow-on effect."
The Raroa, a floating, processing, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel is a converted tanker that has been moored at the Maari site since 2008, where it separates production from the offshore wells into gas, oil and water and then stores the oil for offloading to a conventional tanker.
The previous longest ship to visit Port Nelson, the Olivia Maersk, a 238m container vessel, was here a year ago.
Mr Byrne said the Raroa's size presented special challenges and the port's two tugs would be supplemented by two and possibly three more to manoeuvre the ship through the Cut and into position at McGlashen Quay, where it will spend the majority of its time at the port.
Two of the accompanying tugs will have a bollard pull of around 200 tonnes apiece, making Port Nelson's the Huria Matenga, at 33 tonnes, and the W H Parr, at 23 tonnes, look puny.
As well as its length and breadth the 54,700-ton ship carries a gas flare tower that rises 100m from the waterline, "so that's fairly spectacular", Mr Byrne said.
The planned work - part of an $80 million project that includes the upgrade of the Maari wellhead platform - includes improving its processing equipment and installing a new swivel, which allows it to rotate around its mooring.
Mr Byrne said the scale of the job was still evolving, with work being added to take advantage of the Raroa's time in port.
The original announcement said, weather permitting, the Raroa would be back at its station in November but Mr Byrne said the length of its Nelson stay was "hard to say - it could be something like a month". The series of recent storms were causing delays.
The port would need to work around the Raroa with its other ship calls that would have used McGlashen Quay but that shouldn't cause any delays to shipping, he said.
The lead Nelson contactor is port-based Kernohan Engineering, which has carried out a string of ship repair and refurbishment contracts, including work on the Ensco 56 jack-up oil rig which spent several months at port in 2008.
OMV New Zealand is the country's largest liquid hydrocarbon producer and a subsidiary of OMV Aktiengesellschaft, also known as OMV Group, Austria's largest listed industrial company. It is also New Zealand's third-largest gas producer and a major explorer in offshore Taranaki and the Great South Basin off the South Island.
- © Fairfax NZ News