– Operations – Orams Marine yard visit

Behind the development of the world-class rehabilitation center in downtown Auckland…

Westhaven Marina has come a long way in the 13 years since I was a student dive master working there between classes in college. Built in 1940, it is now home to 1,800 pleasure craft, four yacht clubs and a wide variety of maritime businesses and hotels. It also holds the title of the largest leisure marina in the southern hemisphere. At the heart of its evolution is Orams Marine. In the midst of a substantial facility expansion, I caught up with Craig Park, Managing Director of Orams Marine, to take a look and see how far Auckland’s refit sector has come.

Something that was hard not to notice upon returning to Auckland, and reiterated in many conversations with stakeholders here, is the number of mid-range semi-production yachts that are based here and ostensibly owned to Kiwis. This, Park explains, kept his team active during the pandemic-hit years. “We’ve stayed surprisingly busy,” Park begins. “In reality, we are aiming for a return to a full refit season in the summer of 2023/24. The lack of clarity around the boundary means that many yachts are already booked for the next season, which is a shame.

Jack Hogan (left) and Craig Park (right) watching the new travel lift hoist the 32m Royal Huisman Sassafras

Park reiterates that there is still lingering frustration, from Kiwi-owned yachts, as well as internationally, that despite their intentions, they are still unable to engage their yachts in Auckland in due to maritime border restrictions. Moreover, with the strong growth of the domestic market and with the expected return of international ships, without expansion, the region could reach its capacity.

In recognition of growing demand, Orams Marine has installed a bespoke 85m 820T travel lift. Park explains that his initial projections for using the system were every two weeks, but even taking into account the decline in international visitor numbers, he saw three times as many strandings. The slipway itself faces the large construction site which will eventually house the new paint sheds and office complex, which is scheduled for completion in late 2022 or early 2023.

Wandering around Oram’s facilities is reminiscent of large specialist shipyards in Europe in terms of scope of work, with Park then explaining that Orams Marine has identified its niche. “We know the meat of the market is 45m to 65m, so that’s how we set up our haulout shipyard. We can take more for work on the water but this size range represents a large number of yachts that have the ability and desire to come down to New Zealand, as well as the size range of a growing number of yachts owned by Kiwis,” Park said. This increase in capacity means that Orams Marine has almost tripled its capacity to transport large yachts and work space, from four to 11 yachts. Offering a full refit service option, the inclusion of the two 60m x 24m paint sheds marks significant growth for Kiwi’s refit sector.

Dry storage and tender storage Orams Marine

By international standards, Waitematā Harbor is relatively pristine. There aren’t many waterways that are so central in a major metropolitan city where you can catch your legal limit of table fish a stone’s throw from the commercial port. This is partly due to the environmental controls that the region’s shipping industry has put in place.

Orams Marine’s water treatment system is hard to miss. The massive, purpose-built steel holding tanks are part of an integrated water treatment plant that separates and treats sewage and stormwater collected from hard and covered work areas. The Orams Marine team worked with sustainability experts before construction began, with the aim of setting a new shipyard industry standard for discharge water quality, protecting the Port of Waitematā and New Zealand’s long-term environment.

Too often in shipyards, water runoff is an uncontrolled byproduct of shipyard operations. To tackle the problem, Orams Marine designed the hard surface area to channel water into two separate sub-basins. Wash water passes through a filtration system, with solid contaminants removed and sent to landfills and the water recycled for marina operations or public sewers. Residual contaminants from stormwater runoff undergoing a two-stage treatment for suspended solids and dissolved heavy metals are removed.

Orams Marine works with a subcontractor model for works. The business skills and intellectual property of the Kiwi boat building market were not lost with the closure of Alloy Yachts, but were assimilated into residential and specialist businesses. Park, and others, have pointed out that this quality of craftsmanship is still readily available and is reflected in the quality of work undertaken.

Reclamation jobs, Park says, rely heavily on word of mouth. Especially true for a yard that offers full topside re-sprays. Few owners and guests comment on the engine rebuild or antifouling, but a section of orange peel that catches the light during an Antiguan sunset can be very damaging to the reputation of the yard where it has been painted.

“With a recent paint job, we actually decided we weren’t happy with the finish, even after the captain had approved it. We want it to be perfect and are prepared to bear the cost to do so. It’s a long way for boats to come here, and we want to provide the best service possible,” says Park

Auckland, with my prejudices somewhat aside, has a unique offer for refits. Yachts wintering in the Southern Hemisphere cruising the Pacific can then head south for warmer weather during New Zealand’s summer refit season. Early cruises and sea trials are taking place among the many islands of the Hauraki Gulf, and New Zealand’s cruising season runs from March to April, allowing charters to continue to take place. The South Pacific refit program is a perfect counterweight to the long Mediterranean winter and the traditional refit program. Orams Marine has created a world-class facility in downtown Auckland, adding to the growth and maturation of the region’s superyacht infrastructure.

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Orams Shipyard Tour

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