Working at sea is in Captain Ton van Oosten’s blood. He is the Captain of the dredge Fairway. Not only is he proud to be a fourth generation captain in his family, he’s spent more of his life on the water than on land.
From the small fishing village of IJmuiden in the Netherlands, Captain van Oosten says he knew at a young age he wanted to sail and by the age of 16 he was off on his first tugboat.
“I worked my way up, I became a third mate, second mate, then first mate, and by the time I was 31, I became captain, which was quite young at the time,”
Captain van Oosten, 55, has been with the Fairway for the past five years, and was a part of the Channel Deepening Project.
He says while he’s worked across the globe, this was his first time in New Zealand and it’s been an amazing experience.
“The scenery is outstanding, it’s as if we’ve been looking out at a postcard it’s so beautiful here,” he says.
“And the New Zealand crew members we’ve had on board are great – the guys are very friendly and hard working.”
One of the Fairway's pipe and crane operators was Lyttelton local, Ihaia Hascha, who couldn't be happier to have had the opportunity to work so close to home, after spending large parts of his life at sea.
"My dad was a seaman and so were his brothers. My mum also had two brothers who went to sea as well, so I guess being out at sea is in my veins," he says.
Ihaia says being part of the dredging project in his home port is a career highlight, as well as having the opportunity to work on one of the largest dredges in the world.
For the past 12 weeks, the Fairway has been hard at work dredging to make the shipping channel deeper, wider and longer.
The Fairway finished work on Saturday afternoon and left Lyttelton bound for Singapore. There is still some minor levelling of the channel to do, so you will see the sweep tug, Capricorn Alpha, working for another few weeks.
With the Channel Deepening Project nearing completion, we are now implementing the most significant upgrade to navigation aids at the Port in 35 years.
Navigation aids are a visual guide to help vessels get in and out of the Harbour safely. The upgrades will ensure the Harbour's navigation aids are up to a modern and international standard.
Keep an eye out for a future blog posts on how the new navigation aids work.
Stuart Ratlidge has spent the past decade cooking up meals across the world – all from the galley of a ship.
The Whakatane local is the second cook of the Fairway, and lives onboard for weeks at a time, as he helps prepare three meals a day for a crew of 33.
It’s no easy feat getting those meals ready, and Stuart ensures the crew have only the best.
“We prepare everything from lamb racks to beef fillet and even salmon. But while we produce top-end restaurant quality we also have dishes like corned beef and home-cooked meals that the crew would miss from back home,” says Stuart.
It’s an around the clock job to feed those onboard, with Stuart’s shift starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm for 28 days straight. There’s also a night team that cook for crew members, as the Fairway is a 24-hour working operation.
Stuart loves the lifestyle and, having had the experience of running his own restaurant and working in hotels, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I was drawn to the attraction of a different lifestyle. The work is consolidated into 12-hour days, which means after so many months of work I can afford to have a few months off,” he says.
“Working on ships has been a great opportunity, and we get to work with great produce and be creative.
“Good morale starts in the galley, so we like to make sure everyone is eating well.”
The yellow tug working around the Harbour is the Capricorn Alpha tug. The tug is a ‘sweep tug’ and is working on the Channel Deepening Project.
The tug tows a large blade along the sea floor to even out the troughs and humps left by the Fairway. She also helps scrape off the shallower parts that the dredge can’t reach. It might look like she’s working in circles, but she’s definitely hard at work!
Check out the great video below from Analia Fisher at local Lyttelton videographers www.takefive.co.nz
The Fairway has dredged 3.5 million cubic metres – or 70% of the proposed volume - of silt off the sea floor as part of the programme to widen, deepen and lengthen the navigational channel to allow larger ships to access the Port.
To achieve this, the Fairway has made around 275 trips to and from the disposal site.
The Fairway had a successful trip to Wellington, her fuel tanks are now full and she commenced dredging again this morning.
After two weeks of dredging, the Fairway needs to top up her fuel tanks. That requires a trip up to Wellington, so she'll be away for a few days (it takes a long time to fill her tanks!). We hope to see the Fairway back on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.