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September 2010
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New vessel a leap ahead

Lady Elizabeth IV is led into Wellington Harbour by her predecessor,

Lady Elizabeth III, two weeks before her formal commissioning on September 15.

Photo: Senior Constable Fiona Foxall, Wellington

Police capability on the water takes a quantum leap forward with the arrival of Lady Elizabeth IV to Wellington harbour.

“She’s quite a step up for us and will save lives as a result,” says Senior Sergeant John Bryant, head of the Wellington Police Marine Unit.

Her predecessor, Lady Elizabeth III, was built 21 years ago with a primary focus on marine search and rescue.

The new 18.5m catamaran is equipped to do much more. She will operate as a multi-agency patrol vessel, as Police team with staff from New Zealand Customs, Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation.

She is able to take six to eight crew on patrol for up to seven days without needing to refuel or restock. Built to a full coastal survey standard, her operational range is 450 nautical miles from the entrance of Wellington harbour.

Multi-agency deployments in Wellington harbour, Cook Strait, Marlborough Sounds, Tasman Bay and Kapiti-Mana areas are all on the radar.

“She is a maritime asset that can be used wherever there is a police requirement. We’ve never had that before. Going as far as, say, Lyttelton used to be out of the question but now it’s just six hours away,” says John.

Risk assessments by Police and other agencies suggest she has a lot of work to do in the Marlborough Sounds and Tasman Bay.

Predator-free islands are attractive to cannabis growers and people who trade illegally in protected species, while thousands of homes accessible only by water are vulnerable to boat-based burglars. The unit will also work with Customs and Navy to secure New Zealand’s borders.

Police know a lot of suspicious activity goes on off-shore but until now it’s been very difficult to monitor.

“The sea is almost the last refuge for doing things unnoticed. They’re off the grid and self-sufficient,” says John. “Not any more. This vessel means police can turn up anywhere, at any time.”

Routine policing of Wellington’s harbour and south coast will continue. “We’ll have days when we focus on boat safety, life jackets and collision rules, just as road policing might focus on safety belts or intersections,” says John.

When the new boat is on deployment, Wellington waters will be patrolled by Police 8, one of the remaining three 12m rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) purchased by Police for the America’s Cup in 2000.

Lady Elizabeth IV’s design is based on Auckland’s Deodar III, which has operated successfully since November 2007. The Wellington vessel was modified for heavy weather conditions – for example, windows at the front of the saloon area under the wheelhouse were not included.

John says the advance from Lady Elizabeth III is so great that despite 22 years on the water he feels like a new boy at the helm.

When in operation, access to the wheelhouse will generally be restricted to three people – helmsman, navigation officer and tactical officer – because things move too quickly to risk any distractions.

The vessel has a service speed of 30 knots, twice that of Lizzie III.

The new vessel’s advances are so great that despite 22 years on the

water, Senior Sergeant John Bryant feels like a new boy at the helm.

Photo: Kathryn Fitzpatrick

Onboard technology means all the boat’s movements and charts can be recorded.

The skipper can switch on audio/visual equipment to record events and decisions as they are made, which makes debriefs, hand-overs and reporting for the Coroner much easier.

Another big advantage is the 4.3m RHIB Lady Elizabeth IV carries at the back. It means crew can come alongside another vessel, board, carry out searches and make arrests as necessary, rather than screaming at each other across the water, says John.

She will be formally commissioned at Port Nicholson Yacht Club on 15 September.

Lady Elizabeth III is listed for sale with a broker.

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