'Otago' expected by end of May

The Ministry of Defence is anticipating its new offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago will be delivered by the end of this month after no ‘‘insurmountable'' problems were identified in sea trials.

Although its arrival in New Zealand was scheduled for only four weeks away, a date had not yet been set because ‘‘things could change, even on the day'', director of defence public relations Commander Shaun Fogarty said yesterday.

The ship's first voyage to Dunedin and Bluff should follow within the first few months of its arrival in New Zealand, although a commissioning date was unknown because it involved ensuring the availability of officials to take part in the ceremony, he said.

Otago is being built by Australian contractor Tenix Defence Pty Ltd as part of the New Zealand Government's $500 million Project Protector, with seven vessels being built for commissioning to the New Zealand Navy.

HMNZS Canterbury has already been commissioned, but the remaining six ships - offshore patrol vessels HMNZS Otago and Wellington and inshore patrol vessels Rotoiti, Hawea, Pukaki and Taupo - have all experienced delays.

All ships have undergone changes in insulation and some design modifications have been made to the bridge and bridge equipment room on the inshore patrol vessels.

Cmdr Fogarty confirmed the ministry was ‘‘in negotiations'' with Tenix with regard to penalty clauses over the late delivery of the vessels.

Otago was originally expected to be delivered in mid-2007.

No ‘‘insurmountable'' problems with it were detected during a series of sea trials and earlier issues with the ship's insulation and one of its engines had been rectified.

‘‘At the moment, I don't know of anything that will be a showstopper,'' Cmdr Fogarty said.

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