Hi-tech crayfish boat locally built

06:03, May 14 2010
Southland Times photo
Darren King-Turner

A Fiordland company will be back on the water catching crays soon, with the launch of brand new boat Ata Whenua.

Seawatch Ltd owner Darren King-Turner said the boat, worth $2 million, had taken almost a year to build and was an Invercargill project.

"That's what we loved about it. That's what we're most proud about," he said.

Southland Times photo
MAKE WAY FOR THE KING OF BOATS: The Ata Whenua beng transported to Bluff. The crayfishing boat, which will be based in Milford Sound, was built in Invercargill.

"Even some subcontractors who you wouldn't think would be involved."

Every aspect of the boat was completed by Invercargill businesses in the Gough Bros Ltd warehouse, except for the John Deere engines. That was because no-one in Invercargill made engines, Mr King-Turner said.

Not only was the boat a locally made project, it was built to pioneer new techniques and technologies that he is very excited about.


Instead of workers having to constantly bend to pick the caught crayfish up from the floor, an articulated table had been created to lift the catch to them.

"It's all based around making the crew more comfortable and increasing the longevity of their careers," he said.

Hydraulic systems on the boat made it more "user friendly", and with fishing gear getting bigger all the time the new technologies made work safer too.

This year, Seawatch will catch about 40 tonnes of crayfish, and 100 per cent of that catch would be exported to China by the Fiordland Lobster Company – alive.

The crayfish are anaesthetised, packed in wood shavings, and unpacked at their destination within 30 hours.

Once they are put into water tanks they "re-animate", Mr King-Turner said.

The Ata Whenua (Maori for Fiordland) will be based in Milford Sound and is expected to last at least 30 years. The boat will first hit the water when it is launched in Bluff on Sunday.

The Southland Times