Dredging ship Pelican returns to Timaru to repair port's entrance channel
A dredge ship destined to be scrapped has returned to Timaru to repair the ports entrance channel after July's big storm.
The Pelican, which operates an ocean vacuum that sucks up sand and sediment, has been operating in the Timaru port for almost 30 years.
The ship had returned from Tauranga following damage caused by the storm that forced Timaru into a state of emergency in July.
PrimePort acting chief executive Nick Donaldson said the "severe weather event" caused an infill of sediment at the entrance channel to the port.
That is where all ships enter the port.
Repairs to the channel were on track and expected to be completed by Wednesday. The ship could return again, he said.
The Pelican would be on standby until October 2017, when a new dredge would take up the role of maintaining the port for the next 10 years.
"It may be called back in if there is another storm event," Donaldson said.
The channel's lowest astronomical tide (LAT), the height of the water at the lowest possible theoretical tide, had risen from the normal depth of 10.6 metres.
It was 10 metres until the dredging was complete.
The dredge had been called in as a "precautionary measure": the weather had not affected shipping nor caused delays, Donaldson said.
The Pelican will be replaced by a newer ship, the Albatross Hopper Suction Dredge.
The Albatross is owned by Netherlands based company Dutch Dredging.
Dutch Dredging won a 10 year contract to conduct dredging operations for five New Zealand ports, including Timaru's PrimePort, in November 2016.
The new ship would likely not be seen in Timaru until around October 2018, Donaldson said.