Selected Articles from Issue 24 (October/November 2001)

New Look for Skipper!

Yes, it's a facelift! After six years the magazine continues to broaden its readership and acceptance within the wider maritime industry, with many saying the growth in the last 12 months indicates that we've come of age!

The new cover reflects readers who affectionately refer to the magazine as 'Skipper'. While not dropping our professional focus, it also recognises our recent growth in retail sales, not only among professional mariners but also the discerning boat owner who adopts a professional attitude to their recreational activities. 

The new masthead look also reflects the positive response from our international readers and website visitors, where we currently enjoy around 1200 visits per week. Surprised? Not as surprised as I was once I learned how to open up and read the weekly stats!

 Out with the old!

Dockyard firmly set on new course
by Keith Ingram and Mark Barratt-Boyes

When what was simply known as the Royal New Zealand Navy dockyard became Babcock New Zealand Limited in August 1994, it represented not only a change of direction but a complete change of culture for the dockyard workforce and the Navy itself.

For decades the residents of the picturesque, seaside suburb of Devonport on Auckland's North Shore had looked down on the dockyard with a measure of pride, taking a keen interest in the activity. At its peak the dockyard was at full stretch, with the workforce clocking up 850,000 hours of work each year keeping the naval force running smoothly. But as the fleet reduced in size in the 1990s, so did the work. "We always thought it would drop below 200,000 hours, but it was much greater than that," said the Chief Executive Officer of Babcock, Mike Franklin, who is himself an ex-RNZN officer.

BNZL, popularly known as Babcock, took over the management of the dockyard in 1994 under a 10-year contract, and Franklin freely admits that the first four years were not easy. "Babcock lost sight of its goal and took on a 'work at any cost' approach," he says. "The company made no money, so three-and-a-half years ago it knew it had to stop the rot. We were in bad shape, but we could see where our strengths lay. We knew that we had to stick to the knitting, and that was marine engineering."

The first sign of a turnaround was when New Zealand Rail required some dock work done on the inter-island ferry Aratere and were looking for a quicker turn around than having to go over seas. Babcock secured the contract and was quickly able complete the work and to return the ship to service on budget.

Babcock is New Zealand's largest integrated mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering facility, with an expanding workforce of over 230 full-time staff, still way down from a peak of about 1200 in its not so efficient hey-day.  The centrepoint is the 181.4m long and 24.3m wide Calliope dry dock, which is equipped with a 40 tonne lift, two mobile cranes and a travelling dock arm for waterblasting and painting. Four adjacent repair berths are available for essential non-dry dock operations. There is also a 100 tonne slipway.

The Navy is still the company's biggest client, but now accounts for less than half of the workload. There are two commercial business units. Marine Services is a marine engineering facility for shipbuilding and repairs, dockings and conversion projects. Yacht Services focuses on building new superyachts, plus repairs, haulouts and refits. Facilities include a full design and drawing service with CAD/CAM and Smartcam 3D modelling, using Bentley System Microstation CAD software plus other Intergraph packages, including AutoHydroPro stability software, for greater efficiency in producing and manipulating drawings. There is also a machine shop with New Zealand's largest lathe, and a 200 tonne Synchrolift on the hard stand for yachts of up to 40m. Contract work is also carried out for the Waitakere City Council, BHP Limited, Transfield and Telecom. The company is certified to AS/NZS ISO9001:2000 standard.

Babcock now generates over $20 million in wages, and $8 million to subcontractors is paid into the Auckland economy each year. This is one of the key reasons why it would be impractical to shift the dockyard away from Devonport, as Babcock and the Navy would lose access to a highly skilled sub contract work force when required, says Franklin. Export earnings have risen steadily to over $4 million last year, with $8 million forecast for 2001/2002.

The company is a subsidiary of Babcock Engineering Services, based in Scotland, which provides engineering and technology support services to the defence, rail, marine and "secure facilities" sectors. BES is a division of Babcock International Group.

The head office of BNZL looks up the harbour. As we head off to meet Captain Bruce Pepperell, Captain Fleet Support for the RNZN, the principal liaison officer with Babcock, we drive through an old tunnel below a massive outcrop of rock. We slow to a crawl as we catch up with a squad of Naval ratings marching on the double. The symbolism is not lost on us. The Navy has used an old tunnel to the new age of commercial reality.

That change includes greater customer focus, through process improvement, based on a Plan, Do, Check, Act approach. The model provides a sequential set of activities to identify and prioritise customers, interpret their requirements and deal effectively with suppliers.

"We know where the challenges are and are placed to meet them. We are changing the way we do business which is driven by people themselves, not headquarters in Wellington," says Captain Pepperell.

At its peak there were around 1200 people working at the dockyard. The decline in the workload came with new ships and a change to shorter and sharper maintenance, with eight to 12-week turnaround times for the Anzac frigates, requiring more planning and more demand on services. "We have a core workforce that understands Navy ships, and knows the Navy's requirements for safety and quality," he says. "We can't justify naval work alone, but the Public Finance Act means we, as owners of the dockyard, must make a commercial return and be good stewards of the public finance and assets."

The partnership with Babcock has developed considerably in the last two years, says Captain Pepperell, with weekly meetings and a joint vision. "We tried to remove the impediments of the old pricing system. They're looking at revenue and profit. We want to get the job done with a cost-effective delivery of services.

HMNZS RESOLUTION enters drydock - photograph copyright RNZN

"Fifty days a year is our share of using the dry dock as owners at no charge, for Navy purposes. The dock is now fully utilised, so that puts more pressure on us." The new arrangement has seen a vastly improved dockyard operation for the RNZN, with costs halving over the contract period.

One example of that was fitting of a new transducer to the survey ship HMNZS Resolution, where the Navy had only short notice to get the job done, but everything came together quickly with some cooperative juggling of ships in and out of the dock.


"Other jobs like repairing the damaged bow thruster on Endeavour took creative thinking to achieve, as the dock was just not available. After some serious calculations, staff ballasted the ship down aft and emptied all the tanks until the bow rode high and the thruster was accessible. A job like that would normally have meant waiting for dry docking at a time when the Navy needed to keep its fleet tanker in service to meet its operational and international commitments," said Captain Pepperell.


The Anzac class frigates, of which Australia has eight and New Zealand two, is a classic example of a partnership with another Navy. "We have reaped tremendous benefits. Australia has a huge supply of spares which we can use, but it also works vice-versa."

Other defence work includes calibrating test equipment for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and designing and building Army field hospitals. Says Franklin: "The Navy is a 'captured customer'. They monitor us closely to ensure they receive value for money, but that's understandable." Where once the dockyard might have been busy on the old frigates Waikato or Otago, or maybe just stood empty, anything from tuna boats and luxury ketches now keep the dockyard busy. Where necessary, Babcock will also bring in temporary staff and preferred sub-contractors for specialist work.

Recent international clients of the Marine Services division include the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, part of the P&O Australia fleet. The research vessel had repairs done to her propellers and hull transducers installed. The expoxy coating on her hull was also waterblasted off with high-pressure jets, and the underwater surfaces were sweep-blasted and painted. Other clients have included German and Australian cargo ships, the British cable repair ship Pacific Guardian, and a small American cruise ship, the Clipper Odyssey. With the change of focus of the Whangarei ship yard, the large international purse seine tuna boats were looking for a new maintenance base. "We only had to compete with Singapore for the tuna fleet work."

Domestic customers include Pacifica Shipping, Golden Bay Cement, Strait Shipping, the InterIsland Line, NIWA Research and Sanford Limited. Each vessel has a dedicated project manager and repair superintendent throughout the docking period. Babcock lost "a heap of dough" setting up a marina in anticipation of an over demand for berthage for the last America's Cup, admits Franklin. "But it was excellent in getting (white) boats in so the work force could see them and understand the culture.

"Our workers needed to understand the value of these vessels and this type of work. This exercise was invaluable education, which soon had them dressing appropriately in white overalls, removing boots and shoes at the gangway and pulling on slippers or cover socks." The change was to spread further into clean work habits and improved efficiencies. The Yacht Services division has now generated $6 million of revenue to date. "It provides options for organic growth in the international market, and complements the existing Auckland marine industry infrastructure," he says.

The minimum size vessel the yard will work on is about 22m, and contracts range from what Franklin calls a "shampoo and set" to a complete new build, although the company steers clear of GRP work. Although they still see a number of smaller vessels, these are usually long-standing clients. It's an area where the yard's infrastructure starts to be inefficient, and Babcock had no wish to encroach on the traditional domain of Auckland's smaller yards.

One recent assignment was the conversion of a Baltic salvage tug with full ice class to a private vessel. Ken Freivokh designed the conversion, which included a garage for a Range Rover and a hovercraft. Babcock beat 15 yards in Europe and the United States for the job by focussing on quality and technical expertise, including a 300-page technical response report for the client.

Other arrivals have included the 47m luxury sloop Hyperion, which had warranty repairs done for the builders, Royal Huisman, the classic 26m Fife ketch Mariella, for work on her propulsion and generator systems, and the familiar sight of Itasca, for hull repairs, a complete repaint, a new stabiliser and a new bow thruster.

A major development in the Yacht Services division is the proposed covered floating dock, to be built at Babcock's expense. This will be 100m long by 40m wide and 30m high, and will have a capacity of about 3500 tonnes. The dock will be sited where the marina is. "The dock will be a national asset for the New Zealand marine industry," says Franklin. "The Devonport community is not opposed to the dock, but to its visual impact. I share their concerns. We are looking at various alternative designs, including a different cover."

Community board discussions, regular mailouts and public meetings help keep the locals informed. "We want to work with the neighbours and be a good neighbour." Franklin says Babcock is perceived as being expensive, but its prices are all-inclusive, with no extras. "We have higher overheads, but we sell on our quality and our delivery. We hate to gouge. It just doesn't work. We believe in having an open book, where the client can see the materials and the hours. If we over-estimate, the client gets the rebate."

The future looks bright for Babcock, with the new floating dock and its potential to be the prime contractor for the Navy's new patrol vessels. The company would use its in-house design and build service. Hull construction would likely take place in the regions, such as Nelson, New Plymouth or Whangarei, with the final fitouts in the yard.

It is also bidding for major Australian Naval projects and several other superyacht contracts. The workforce is very stable, says Franklin. "They want to work here and they are well rewarded."

Captain Pepperell puts it in a nutshell. "We need to be good stewards of public money. The public has to be confident that we're doing it right."

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Navy rolls out new Seasprite
By Keith Ingram

More than $100 million of work will flow into the New Zealand economy over the next 10 years following the introduction of the new Super Seasprites, the Minister of Defence, the Hon Mark Burton, said at the acceptance ceremony on August 8.

In its contract to supply Super Seasprites to New Zealand, Kaman Aerospace had committed to a New Zealand Industry Involvement Programme, the minister said at the ceremony, which was held at the Naval Support Flight in Whenuapai, Auckland, for the first two of its five new Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters.

'It is now clear that that figure will be exceeded. I understand that the manufacturing component of the programme has exceeded the target for local involvement by more than 40 percent.'

One benefit of the project had been the association of Kaman with the Blenheim company Safe Air Limited. The New Zealand purchase was made in parallel with an Australian purchase for 11 helicopters with similar specifications, the minister said. 'Safe Air has worked extensively on both the New Zealand and Australian projects.'

The development of the relationship with Kaman had led to Safe Air's engineers and technicians becoming involved in many key design decisions, which would impact throughout the life of the Seasprites.

The industry programme had already exceeded $15 million of work in New Zealand, including the design, manufacture and refurbishment of components, and the manufacture of flight controls, weapons pylons, doors and electrical wiring harnesses. Other contributing companies included Winston and Gordon Davies of Auckland, A E Tilley of Wellington, and Bronze Age Casting from Motueka.

'As the Chief of Defence Force has stated, the new Super Seasprite helicopters are a significant addition to our defence capability,' Burton said. 'This is an exciting and long awaited day, where much will be spoken of the new aircraft, and the future,' the Base Commander of the Naval Air Support Unit, Wing Commander Peter Port ONZM, said in his welcoming speech. He said in the past three years the unit had enjoyed the earlier version, the SH 2F Seasprite, and he acknowledged the sterling service the aircraft had given, and the professionalism of the Naval Support Flight in its operation as a bridge between the Wasp helicopter and the new G model.

'As with the introduction into service of any new aircraft type, the introduction of the F model Seasprite in 1998 was a huge undertaking for the Naval Support Flight,' said Port. 'The unit rose to the challenges that were presented by the aircraft, which had been out of flying and in storage in the Arizona desert for some years. In no time at all the aircraft were back in the air and a credit to us all.'

During their short time with the unit, the SH 2F Seasprites had been deployed in the Persian Gulf, East Timor, the Solomon Islands and the Southern Ocean Patrol.

'In all their operations and flying they have been a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the unit's engineering and maintenance effort, a sure indication that the G model is going to be in very good hands,' said Wing Commander Port.

NZ3601 is rolled out to a welcome from the RNZN/RNZAF Maori cultural group.
NZ3601 is rolled out to a welcome from the
RNZN/RNZAF Maori cultural group.

The Naval Support Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander Jim Gilmour, led the roll out of NZ3601, accompanied by members of the RNZN/RNZAF Maori cultural group. The roll out was followed by official addresses from the President of Kaman Aerospace Corporation, Joseph Lubenstein and the Chief of Defence Forces, Air Vice Marshall Carey Adamson. The delivery certificates were then signed and the aircraft were blessed by Chaplain Pauline Law, ONZM, RNZN.

The Super Seasprite NZ3604, piloted by the Chief Test Pilot for Kaman, George Haliscak, flew over the hangar and put the new aircraft through its paces, demonstrating the helicopter's many tactical and flying attributes.

Maximum weight 14,200lb
Engines 2x General Electric T700-401
Endurance 4 hours armed
Maximum speed 150 knots
Range 480 nautical miles
Rescue hook: 600lbs, 100ft cable
Cargo hook 4000 lbs
Weapons 2x AGM 64D(NZ) Maverick missiles
Mk 46 torpedo, Mk 11 depth charge, M60D machine gun
Radar AN/APS 143(V)3
Navigation AN/ASN 150 Tacnav, Tasman GPS, VOR/DME, ILS, Doppler
ESM LR 100, ALE 47 chaff and flares
Communications 2x V/UHF, HF, secure voice

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Mussel farms growing too fast
Marine farming (also known as 'aquaculture' or 'mariculture') is a profitable and growing industry in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it is also one which is rapidly outgrowing the planning and legislative structure it works within, says the New Zealand Forest and Bird Society.

It says the recent decision by the Environment Court to limit the number of new farms that will be allowed in the Marlborough Sounds has coincided with a rush of applications to other areas around New Zealand.
Within the Auckland Regional Authority alone there are currently (September 2001) applications for sea space totalling over 5000ha in the Firth of Thames.

At least seven applications have been received for Great Barrier Island, and applications totalling hundreds of hectares have also been made for sea space within the Kaipara Harbour, the society says. It says it is concerned about:

Loss of wilderness seascapes
The large buoys used for mussel farming and the wooden racks used for oyster farming create an obvious and visually intrusive mark on what were formerly natural seascapes. They also affect boating navigation and passage.

Free commercial use of common/public sea space
Treaty claims aside, the sea has traditionally been considered public/common space in New Zealand. Aquaculture companies currently pay a one-off cost of around $5000 to have their application processed, but pay no rent on the sea space they use for commercial activities.

Permits to farm marine areas are exchanged for between $50,000 and $100,000 per hectare in the Marlborough Sounds.

Pressure from industry to privatise sea space
The rush of applications for sea space is more worrying in light of the aquaculture industry lobbying for “more secure property rights” over sea space that is being farmed.

Lack of information on ecological effects
Little research has been done into the ecological impact of marine farming. The research that has been carried out is based on a farm size of 3ha, and may not be relevant to the large farms currently being applied for. In addition, much of this research is copyright to the industry and is not readily available to the public.

Inequality in developing farmed and protected areas
Why is it that it takes only weeks to process a marine farming application, and years to process a marine reserve application? With our marine areas being so rapidly developed for commercial use, it is becoming apparent that (as on land) any areas not specifically protected may be developed at some stage.

What ratio of farmed to protected areas do we want for our oceans? Is this being planned for, or even thought about?

Is there an alternative?
Forest and Bird says its position on the applications it has opposed so far is that the society is not against marine farming per se, but rather the unplanned and unsustainable way in which it is being developed.

We feel that a more sensible approach would be to allocate areas within which marine farming could take place prohibit farming outside these areas, and limit the size of farms until more is known about effects. This approach has already been adopted by some regional councils, such as the Waikato Regional Council. Ring EnviroLine on 09-366-2070 (or 0800 800 40 from outside Auckland) and ask to be notified when further submissions for marine space arise.

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A proven design
by Michael Pigneguy

Charter boat operators who reckon they have berthage problems should pay a visit to Castlepoint on the wild and woolly Wairarapa Coast. A chat with the operators there will give you a different perspective on life.

There are no moorings, no piles, and no marina to glide into after a hard day out on the briny. There is just a beach, a tractor and a trailer.

That's no problem if you are sailing a P class dinghy, but we are talking about the Legionaire, which, at 15.6m (50ft), is the largest trailerable jetboat in the Southern Hemisphere.

At the end of a day's fishing with clients on board, Bob Reriti, the owner, along with his wife, Carol, and skipper of the Legionaire, has to nudge the vessel close into rocks so that his crew can leap ashore, run up the beach, and back its huge, oversize trailer down into the tide. Bob then guns the Legionaire into the trailer, and its big, meaty tractor hauls the whole rig up the firm, sandy beach to its parking spot (berth!). The passengers then climb down to the sand on steps from the stern platform.

Built to Bob Reriti's own design by Rick Matson in Fremantle, Western Australia, in 1996, the Legionaire's first voyage was from Fremantle, across the South Australian Bight, and a quick hop across the Tasman Sea, all in seven days!

Workboats at Castlecliff

She has an alloy hull with 12mm bottom plates and 8mm topsides. Her 4.6m beam gives fishers plenty of room in the partly covered fishing area, and her shallow 800mm draft means that the trailer doesn't have to back into the ocean to retrieve its charge.

A very healthy top speed of 36 knots is made possible by twin V8 700hp Scandias with jets. As Legionaire Fishing Charters, Bob and Carol have been running this very functional vessel out of Castlepoint since 1996, taking groups of 10 out for a day's fishing, targeting groper, blue cod, terakihi and kingfish.

Legionaire has been very successful, both as a charter boat and a commercial cray boat, so much so that Bob and Carol have a 13.3m (43ft) version now being built. This time Q-West of Wanganui are the builders, and Outer Limits is due for delivery in September.

Apart from there being no safe berth at Castlepoint, other real problems are the lack of any fresh water for washing down, and no electricity. There is a real need for a wharf to be built in the lagoon for the sake of convenience, safety, and the fact that, on occasions, boats here are called out for sea and rescue operations during the night. Moves are now afoot for construction to start on this much-needed asset, but the important matter of its siting has yet to be finalised.

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