FEATURE | Restoration work suggested for preservation of 1960s-era hydrofoil ferry
Currently moored on Sydney Harbour, Manu Wai is the last intact example of a Supramar hydrofoil series recognised as the world’s first high-speed ferry design, approved for limited coastal use by classification societies when introduced in 1958.
The vessel has high historic and technical significance, rarity value, along with research potential in the worldwide maritime sphere thus making it worthy of preservation with perhaps a return to operational condition. This possibility appears to exist only in Australia under an AMSA provision for historic vessels operating in a not-for-profit model as it is no longer possible to re-instate class for commercial operation due to vessel’s age.
Over thirty years in service
Built by the Rodriquez Shipyard in Messina in 1964 to operate across the Hauraki Gulf between Auckland and Waiheke Island, she entered service on June 22, 1964. Referred to as the “Concorde of the Gulf”, the single-screw, 72-passenger hydrofoil slashed the then-existing ferry trip from one hour to just 22 minutes.
In 1973, she became entangled in a protracted dispute over manning between the owner and seaman’s union never to re-enter service as a ferry.
She was acquired by Manu Wai Holdings in 1988 to be used as a luxury corporate charter vessel in Auckland leading up to the 1990 America’s Cup. For this purpose she was completely refurbished and modernised back to as new condition from the keel up.
Extensive alterations were made to aft cabin, and a small modern galley was fitted in the forward cabin. Aft deck modifications and outriggers fitted to the bow foil facilitated berthing at conventional wharves.
She was acquired by new owners in 1994 but unfortunately ran aground on a sandbar on a repositioning trip to the Bay of Islands, becoming an insurance writeoff and ending her career in New Zealand.
She was acquired by Seaflight Cruises in Australia in 1995 to operate excursion trips on Sydney Harbour. A Rodriquez engineer repaired the damaged aft foil in Sydney as part of a significant refit and restoration of ABS class.
The vessel was last operational on Sydney Harbour in 2000.
Preserving a piece of history
Garry Fry, Manu Wai‘s current owner, said there are three possible paths to save the vessel:
- As a static museum display afloat or ashore
- As a full scale “proof of concept” conversion to electric or hydrogen propulsion
- Restoration to a fully operational, not-for-profit historic vessel carrying fare-paying passengers
Her current status is laid up afloat as result of engine damage in 2000, which then led to an engine seizure at idle in 2010. A complete repair is viable as a spare crankshaft is available with the engine having only run 600 hours on a new aluminium block sourced in 1990. Th MTU 12V493 engine is still supported with spare parts available from MTU and used engine parts available in Italy.
The Brown Boveri turbochargers have run less than one hour since the vessel’s last overhaul in 2000 and likewise the gearbox and clutch are in good condition with low hours since the NZ rebuild.
The riveted aluminium hull is in fundamentally sound condition with only isolated areas of electrolysis pitting visible in the aft peak, the gearbox space, and the engine room.
Garry is searching for a shipyard or other facility that could consider restoration in a not-for-profit context in conjunction with TAFE, registered training organisations, and other interested parties.
Please contact Garry Fry for further information.
Email: [email protected]
More great content as part of this month’s Hydrofoil Week right here.
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