Tauranga to welcome biggest container ship ever to visit NZ

  • 03/10/2016
Tauranga has dredged its shipping channel to accommodate larger ships like the Aotea Maersk (NZphotos.com)
Tauranga has dredged its shipping channel to accommodate larger ships like the Aotea Maersk (NZphotos.com)

Maritime history will be made when the largest container ship to visit New Zealand arrives at Port of Tauranga this week.

"On Tuesday, look out for the Aotea Maersk when she visits Tauranga for the first time," the Tauranga Yacht and Boating Club advises locals in its newsletter.

"When she was built about 16 years ago, she was one of the largest container vessels in the world. Not so anymore but at 347m long and a gross tonnage of 92,000 tonnes, she will still be a new challenge for the local pilots."

The ship has a draught of 10.4m and is going to be a regular visitor to Tauranga, which has dredged its shipping channel to accommodate larger ships.

The port estimates an arrival time of 11.45am.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Maersk Line Oceania managing director Gerard Morrison, Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns and Kotahi chief executive David Ross will all be there for the official welcome.

Aotea Maersk can carry 9500 standard-sized containers, more than double the capability of container ships that regularly call in New Zealand.

The New Zealand record was formerly held by a one-off visit from a ship that held about 5000 containers.

The arrival comes at the start of the peak export season.

Two years ago, Kotahi, a freight management partnership between initially Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms, entered separate long-term agreements with Port of Tauranga and Maersk Line to lay the groundwork to bring larger, more sustainable and efficient vessels to New Zealand.

Mr Cairns said earlier it was not just larger container ships that were calling at Port of Tauranga.

"The 200m long 35,000-tonne SBI Maia, chartered by TPT Forests, the world's largest log carrier, has also started calling and we will host Royal Caribbean International's mega cruise ship Ovation of the Seas this summer.

"It is gratifying to see our new infrastructure, including the recently deepened and widened shipping channel, being used so quickly after so many years of hard work," he said.