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16 May, 2022

This is the vessel that will fix Sea Swift's wet season woes

Exclusive images of Newcastle Bay II's construction in China show that it is nearly ready to be handed to Sea Swift.

By Matt Nicholls

A PURPOSE-built cargo ship for Weipa and Horn Island should dramatically improve wet season services, Sea Swift says.

The shipping company hopes to take delivery of Newcastle Bay II in October and have it in operation by Christmas.

For the past two wet seasons, Sea Swift has been unable to keep up with the demand for freight in the Cape and Torres Strait after it de-commissioned Newcastle Bay in late 2019.

Chairman and acting CEO Steve Boulton said the company was meant to have the new vessel in service in March last year, but delays had prolonged the delivery from China.

“We expect construction to be complete in October and then for sea trials to be undertaken,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“The big sea trial will be bringing it back (to Cairns).

“We’ll do a series of equipment tests on board and hope to have it in service late this year or early next year.”

Mr Boulton said Sea Swift stood by its decision to decommission its flagship vessel before its replacement was ready.

“I don’t think we made the wrong call,” he said.

“These are the scenarios you face in a dynamic business.”

The acting CEO said COVID had put a strain on construction, including the availability of materials, such as steel.

You make decisions with the information you have at the time,” he said.

Newcastle Bay II is just a few centimetres shy of being 100 metres long.

When up and running, it will have a maximum speed of 14 knots, propelled by a massive MAK Caterpillar engine, which operates on diesel oil.

As well as being able to offer an increased cargo capacity, the Newcastle Bay II will also have room for passengers, allowing Sea Swift to revive its cruises.

SEARCH FOR CEO

EXPECT a decision to be made soon on the new Sea Swift CEO.

Mr Boulton said the company had narrowed down the candidates to four people and that final interviews should be conducted this week.

“We’ve had some impressive candidates,” he said.

Former CEO Rochelle Macdonald was in the chair for less than a year before resigning.

WOOLWORTHS WOES

WEIPA residents have been left furious after a number of late barge arrivals left grocery shelves empty.

The vessel that is meant to arrive in Weipa on Friday has often docked a day late, leaving little time for shelves to be stocked.

Woolworths in Weipa is closed on Sunday due to state laws.

Sea Swift’s Queensland operations manager Peter Domenighini said the punctuality issues were regrettable.

“If we hit weather on the east coast we can’t catch up,” he said.

“That vessel is slower in speed but once Newcastle Bay II arrives those problems will disappear.”


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