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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kiwi cruiser a real glass act

The Mercury: Kiwi cruiser a real glass act [01dec05]

THE builders of a tourism vessel on its way to New Zealand hope other orders will follow in its wake.

With sides and ceilings of glass, the Patea Explorer has been custom-designed for viewing the sheer cliffs of Doubtful Sound, on the South Island's far south.

Hobart firm Richardson Devine Marine built the 31m ship, which sailed from Sullivans Cove yesterday.

Tourism firm Real Journeys, owned by Fiordland Travel, bought the ship, which can seat 175 but is expected to carry 130 in style for most tours.

Richardson Devine managing director Ron Devine was in the delivery crew of six.

There's plenty of viewing, lots of glass and a full walkaround deck,'' he said yesterday.

Almost all the work on the aluminium vessel was done in-house, he said, with only specialised electrical and hydraulics work done by contractors.

``This vessel is a huge breakthrough for us,'' Mr Devine said.

``We're pretty busy at the moment negotiating contracts and we're hoping to lay a keel before Christmas.''

Real Journeys engineer Jim Young said the ship's destination got 7m of rain annually, so the Patea Explorer's ability to carry many people under cover while still taking in the view was crucial.

``They've done a really nice job ... it meets all the design and performance criteria,'' he said..

``Because we get 7m of rain a year, there's lots of covered exterior, which means 130 people can be outside and under cover. All our scenery is vertical.''

The ship is expected to arrive at the far-southern town of Bluff tomorrow then travel to Doubtful Sound.

Passenger trips will begin soon after the new service's launch on December 10.


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