First ship of the season due to cruise into Port Chalmers

The Sea Princess will again launch the Dunedin cruise season. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The Sea Princess will again launch the Dunedin cruise season. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
On Sunday, Sea Princess returns to begin another busier, cruise ship season.

Port Chalmers will host 80 visits from 22 ships and Dunedin nine from five smaller ships.

Once again, familiar vessels will return, among them some permanently based in Australia, and also others which are maiden callers.

One of these that has recently captured my attention is newcomer Oosterdam. The third of this season's visitors, on October 29 this Holland America Line vessel makes its first of eight visits.

At present wending its way down through the Pacific, the vessel closed the Alaska season when it departed from Juneau at 6pm on September 27. The season there starts again on May 1, 2013.

From May 9, the vessel had made 21 visits to Juneau on seven-day cruises from the Port Metro cruise ship terminal in Vancouver.

During the season, 925,000 cruise ship passengers visited Juneau. There were a total of 448 ship visits, from 37 cruise ships representing 15 different cruise lines.

Among these ships were six that will be making return calls at Port Chalmers over the next few months. They are Dawn Princess, Diamond Princess, Radiance of the Seas, Sea Princess, Seven Seas Navigator and Silver Shadow.

The 27 ships coming our way operate for 15 different cruise companies. Heading the list with 52 calls by 11 ships is the Carnival group. These ships sail under the banners of the Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, P&O Australia, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruises and, for the first timer, units of the Carnival and Costa fleets.

Eleven other visits will come from two vessels of the Royal Caribbean fleet, Radiance of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas, plus seven calls by Celebrity Solstice from associated Celebrity Cruises.

There is probably not much left now of a vessel that was once a regular visitor to Dunedin. Atlantia was sold by Glory Lucky, of Panama, for demolition by Shanti Shipbreakers Pvt Ltd. After arriving at Alang on August 7, it was run up on to the beach 11 days later.

The vessel was the former coastal tanker Taiko. This vessel goes down in history as being the last vessel ordered for service with the Union Company's fleet.

Ordered from the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries yard at Nagasaki in December 1982, the tanker was originally intended to be named Tara. Launched without a name on December 24, 1983, Taiko was handed over on May 30, 1984.

Propulsion machinery for the 21,187gt, 33,378dwt vessel was supplied by the builders engine works at Kobe. This seven-cylinder, 11,360bhp Sulzer unit gave the tanker a service speed of 15 knots.

Taiko called here for the first time on October 28, 1984, and made its final appearance here on March 23, 2007. Later that year it was sold to serve for the rest of its career as Atlantia.

All told, Taiko visited Dunedin 140 times, more than any other tanker that has been permanently based on the coastal run from Marsden Point.

Today, four former Union Company cargo ships are still known to exist. All are roll on/roll off vessels that visited this harbour and later passed to new owners.

The oldest of them is Wanaka, built in 1970 as a running mate for the 1967-built Hawea on the Auckland-Dunedin service.

Transferred to the transtasman trade in 1972, the ship arrived at Dunedin on its 176th visit on March 1, 1975, and was laid up for lack of trade.

Finally, after being idle for a year, it was sold to Greek buyers, and left here as Rata Hills on March 26, 1976.

Two of the other ships were the 1976-built, chartered sister ships, Union Hobart and Union Lyttelton. Between them they made a total of 245 visits on the transtasman run from March 1977 to October 1983.

The fourth survivor is the 1973-built Union Wellington. It was also employed in the same trade but made only three calls here, in 1974.

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