New light boosts harbour safety


The brightest ‘sector’ navigation light in Australasia was switched on today at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour. The$300,000 navigation aid, commissioned and installed by Northport, is one of the top 10 brightest sector lights globally. It replaces one which was 26 years old and only bright enough to operate at night.


The new light is at the tip of Marsden Point, on the seaward side of Refining NZ’s plant. It is visible from five nautical miles during daylight hours and 10 nautical miles at night. It improves the ability of ships to navigate their way safely and accurately through the main shipping channel.


Marine traffic into Whangarei Harbour is growing significantly. Northport’s cargo volumes have almost doubled from 1.58 million tonnes in 2003/4 to a projected 2.97 million tonnes in 2012/13. Last year the port, one of only two deep water ports in New Zealand and the only one on the North Island, handled an unprecedented 215 ship calls, up from just 93 a decade ago.


The harbour is also used by the ships servicing Refining NZ, New Zealand’s only oil refinery.


“Given this growth in traffic, the strategic importance of the harbour and the complexities of navigating the narrow entrance, it was imperative that we upgrade the aging sector lighting,” said Northport chief executive Jon Moore.


“The brightness of the light during daylight hours will provide a far more accurate position indicator for shipping than the ‘day shapes’ used previously.”


A sector light projects three colours across the width of a channel; red, white and green. Only one colour can be seen at a time, so a helmsman can see that his vessel is on the port (left) side of the channel when he can see red, on the starboard (right) side when he can see green, and safely in the middle when he can see white.


The new Whangarei Harbour port entry system features two lights stacked above each other. This increases the intensity of the light, allowing all three colours to be seen at least five nautical miles out to sea when viewed against a setting sun.


It also incorporates an oscillating boundary feature, meaning that as a vessel approaches the port or starboard side of the ideal course the helmsman will see either a white and red signal or a white and green one. This provides early warning of deviation from the centre line and enables highly precise navigation. It is ideal for large ships moving in very narrow channels, especially when there is adverse wind or tide.


The system comprises four lights; two large, powerful PEL6 day/night lights and two VLB46 lights for night use only. It runs on mains power but has a 500Amphr battery back-up system charged by solar energy. It also runs a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) system that notifies Northport duty staff by SMS of any power or light failures and enables the light to be turned off and on from any mobile phone.


The light is only the second of its type in the world. The other is in Durban, South Africa.


It’s also the first such navigation aid designed and built entirely in New Zealand by Kiwi companies. VEGA Industries of Porirua hand-built the high-powered lights; Auckland’s Enertec Marine Systems and Ideal Electrical provided the hardware; and Whangarei’s BlackDog Steelworks undertook the engineering works.


The complex electrical system was designed and built in-house at Northport, and both Refining NZ and North Tugz provided extensive logistical and technical assistance.


About Northport

Northport, situated at Marsden Point at the mouth of Whangarei Harbour, is New Zealand’s northernmost deep water port. It is a flexible facility catering for large, multi-purpose vessels and full cargo handling facilities are available from its 570 metre linear berth.


Logs, woodchip and processed timber for export comprise the bulk of cargo processed by the port. Other export items include kiwifruit, dairy products, concrete railway sleepers and manufactured goods. Imports are an important part of Northport’s business and include fertiliser, gypsum, coal and palm kernel.


The port is owned and operated by Northport Limited, itself owned jointly and equally by Northland Port Corporation and the Port of Tauranga Ltd.

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For more information please contact:

Peter Heath, TextWrite / 09-4074695 / 021-456353