New Zealand is providing Niue with its first dedicated search and rescue (SAR) vessel, with sea trials underway this week in Lyttelton.
The vessel is being provided as part of the second phase of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Pacific Maritime Safety Programme (PMSP2).
The NZ$367,000 (US$265,000), 8.3-metre SAR vessel, with a top speed of 36 knots, was built in Christchurch by ICON Custom Boats. Following completion of sea trials it will be shipped to Niue and officially handed over to the Niue Government on October 18, during the country's constitution celebrations.
The vessel will give Niue, for the first time, the ability to respond immediately to SAR incidents. Currently, when a SAR response is required this must be managed using vessels of opportunity. At times, when an EPIRB or personal locator beacon has been activated, this has required a P3 Orion to fly from New Zealand to the area.
The PMSP2 programme is providing NZ$8.13 million over three years to fund activities to improve maritime safety in the Pacific, focusing on the nations of Niue, Tokelau, Kiribati, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Tuvalu.
Refurbishment work has also been carried out on the derrick at Sir Robert's Wharf in Niue to enable the 3.5-tonne vessel to be launched. This will also provide a safer means of getting other boats in and out of the water.
Niue has around 60 small boats , of less than five metres, used for fishing, and a further 120 fishermen using traditional vaka canoes.