28 Nov 2023

Strong winds force cruise ship to skip Wellington visit

11:16 am on 28 November 2023
The cruise ship 'Ovation of the Seas' arriving in Bremerhaven, Germany, 28 March 2016.

Ovation of the Seas. Photo: AFP / DPA Picture-Alliance

A major cruise ship decided to not berth in Wellington on Tuesday morning due to windy weather.

Harbourmaster Grant Nalder said the Ovation of the Seas was preparing to berth, before the ship's captain decided they were not prepared to stay in the capital due to strong winds.

The ship has since left Wellington, on its way to Napier.

Nalder told Nine to Noon there were a range of reasons why the captain likely made the call.

"The ship arrived from Australia, the pilot boarded, I believe there's a bit of a discussion about the weather conditions and the … agreement was to to come and have a look. So they did that.

"They came up into the harbour, they got up towards the berth, looked at the conditions they were experiencing there and … the decision was that they weren't going to berth the ship here today."

The ship got close enough to be seen by locals on the motorway or train, he said.

The decision would have been a joint one between the ship captain and a person at the port called the pilot, he explained.

"His job is to provide guidance and advice to the master on going in and out of Wellington."

Nalder said it was the right call not to berth in Wellington.

"I'm never going to criticise anyone for making a safety-based decision and that's what this was.

"Because it's not just putting it alongside (the berth). I have no doubt they could have done that, but then they need to sit there for the day and whatever wind conditions we have during the day. So that's the strain on the mooring lines, it's whether the ship has to use its own thrusters to push into the wharf.

"Even the experience for the passengers - most of us know what it's like walking down Lambton Quay when there's a fair gale and these people are out on a wharf looking for their bus, so not possibly not the best passenger experience either."

It has raised concerns new inter-island ferries being built in Korea, nearly double the size of the existing vessels, will face difficulties in Wellington's wind.

"They are going to be bigger ships and the the biggest difference is going to be significantly more windage. Windage is basically the sort of the slab side of the ship that the wind blows on and puts quite a lot of force on," Nalder said.

"If the wind's behind you and you're opening your car door the first little bit isn't too bad, but when the door gets halfway open and the wind catches it, that's when it tries to run away from you. And it's, it's reasonably similar - if you're pointing into the wind, it's not so bad. If you've got the wind coming at 90 degrees, that's a very big loading."

Captains would need to be "quite conservative" when the new ferries launch, he said, as they learn to operate them.

He was not aware of any other ships having problems on Tuesday, but admitted he had been "slightly busy talking about the Ovation this morning, so I haven't looked at what other, what other shipping was scheduled".

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