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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans


December 10, 2018

Conservation and Management Human Use Census #3

Maddy Oerth & Katie Shambaugh, C Watch, Eckerd College & Smith College

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Above: Panorama view of the Napier commercial shipping port. Bottom: Maddy Oerth and Katie Shambaugh talking to one of the mates on board the Aotearoa Chief.

This past weekend, S-283 enjoyed a long port stay in Napier. While in the area, we continued our Conservation and Management class's project known as the Human Uses of Ocean Space Consensus. As a part of this, we found that Napier's port was the most commercial out of the few port stops we have done so far. From the first day we arrived, there was constant movement in and out of harbor by large vessels. This included cruise ships, tankers, container ships, tugboats, patrol boats, and many others. There were large containers filled with a variety of items and piles of logs all ready to be shipped lining a majority of the harbor walls. Cranes were working daily to move all the products in a timely manner. The port itself had high security stationed and was closed off from the rest of the area. Interestingly, there were expensive houses positioned in the hills above the port overlooking the entire area. To the left of the port, the area drastically changed into a touristy city along the water. There was also a marine parade with all kinds of recreation activities available along with restaurants and hotels located across the street from the water. To the right of the port, the area was more residential alongside small ports filled with fishing vessels and a traditional Maori waka. These observations show that Napier has a very interesting and unique coastal spatial plan.

Napier is a small summer city known for its art deco design and its proximity to wineries on the southeastern coast of Aotearoa New Zealand's North Island. Expecting high levels of tourism, we were surprised to come into harbor and be surrounded by commercial ships that dwarfed our little sailing vessel. We sailed into a tight, protected area of the harbor where the larger ships were kept - being the only place that could fit us - and stepped quite literally into what was described to us as an open factory. The man-made cement docks were equipped for everything from livestock to logging to oil tankers to massive container ships, with built-in cranes and corrals that strategically littered the port. No one was to step onto the dock without wearing bright vests, and even then they strongly discouraged loitering unless you were stepping into a vehicle that would take you outside of the gated community. No one left on foot and no one came back without a government-issued ID that matched a name on the list of crew from the ships within the port. It was a very interesting look into this surprisingly industrial world. Yet once we drove outside this enclosed area, you drove directly into this quaint city, specifically designed to cater to relaxing and recreational activities by the seaside.

In collecting our survey data, we spotted a large ship across the dock, the Aotearoa Chief. Many of the ships were easily identifiable in what they did (the logging ships had logs, the oil tankers had "no smoking" signs, etc), but we could not identify what was being pumped into the large containers built into the ship. While we mused what it could be, Katie noticed a man on the bow of the Aotearoa Chief and called out to him. "Kai Ora!", he responded appropriately, letting us know he had heard us. She proceeded to ask what the vessel carried and once it was established that they were a cement ship, he invited us to come and have a look. Startled and excited, we gained permission from the mate on watch, donned our vests, and walked over with a member of one of our faculty. The man who invited us and their mate on duty told us about the ship's function, what they were doing, and how they ran this massive vessel with a crew of only 16 people. Once we got over our sleeping-quarter envy, we immensely enjoyed our tour of the ship's living spaces and high control room. Our "pirate ship," as they called us, looked so tiny in contrast to all the world around it. The mate on duty could be best described as jolly, so excited to speak with us and share his world a little bit. As it turns out, he had recognized our vessel from a port stop he had taken in San Francisco when he had seen the Seamans in 2005. It's a small world after all.

We were only in port for a handful of days, but wished we had a little more time to stay and really learn about the port of Napier and how it connected to the drastically different city of Napier, outside of it. We also had questions as to why this port was so commercially centric. Was there an excess of resources outside of the city, or was it just a deep and strategically located harbor relatively central in the island country of Aotearoa New Zealand? Maybe when we get back to a world with internet, we can find out some answers. If we learned anything at this port stop, however, it's that just striking up a conversation by yelling at strangers can lead to some really interesting adventures.

- Maddy Oerth, C Watch, Eckerd College
- Katie Shambaugh, C Watch, Smith College

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