Sub tours

By JOHN ROSS An 18-metre (60 foot) long semi-submersible vessel is nearing completion at one of Fiji’s most respected shipyards, Marine Power & Services/Cobra Boats at Wailoaloa Beach, Nadi. It
06 Dec 2012 07:34

South Sea Subs chief executive, Rob Van Der Moigg, stands infront of submarine under construction at their hangar in Wailoaloa, Nadi, yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA


An 18-metre (60 foot) long semi-submersible vessel is nearing completion at one of Fiji’s most respected shipyards, Marine Power & Services/Cobra Boats at Wailoaloa Beach, Nadi.
It will be used by South Sea Subs to operate reef viewing tours off Nadi, with the inaugural sailing scheduled for March.
Fiji’s tourism industry is showing incredible growth in many areas. This new addition will create an experience that has not been fully exploited in Fiji.
The boat builder, Dave Bloxham, says: “We have built many boats in Fiji, a number of which have been for special purposes, but this is certainly the most demanding vessel we have been involved with.
“It is technically demanding because of the fact that it is designed to operate predominantly under water and because the certification process to operate the vessel will be meticulous. Our work will be examined by the experts before it is approved.”
At the yard work has been underway over the past four months on this new and cutting edge vessel.
Construction is in marine grade ABS approved aluminum, and the pieces were cut to the plans by KK Industries in the USA and shipped to Fiji in containers.
Initial designs were done by Rob Moigg of South Sea Subs and all Naval Architecture by Boksa Marine Designs in Florida, USA.
But the construction has been 100 per cent in Fiji, using mainly Fijian tradespeople.
Building a vessel that is designed to operate with the majority of the hull submerged brings a special set of challenges and technical requirements.
It is a complement to the Fiji shipyard that Rob Moigg and Steve McDonald, Directors of South Sea Subs, had the confidence to commission them to carry out this demanding task and ensure the international standards needed to ensure the operating safety of the vessel.
One of the most important aspects of the construction is the welding and to achieve the technical finish specified all work was done by Julian Russell Atu, Rotuman-born and New Zealand-trained.
He is the only welder certified in Fiji to do work to this standard.

14 Windows
The plating and extrusions of the vessel are 6mm marine grade aluminum produced in the US.
The 14 windows in the hull for viewing are a specially developed 50mm thick Plexiglass capable of withstanding pressures up to 16,000 pounds per square inch, pressures that the vessel will never encounter.
These viewing windows also have an anti-abrasion treatment on the outside and a ‘red’ filter to enhance undersea viewing.
To ballast the vessel eighty tonnes of lead is being placed in the hull below the floor.
The vessel will undergo inspection and marine survey by the Fiji Marine Safety Authority for its operating licenses.
The interior is fully air-conditioned with a very high rate of air replacement.
There are 18 marine bilge pumps in the lower and upper hull areas, all of which operate automatically to expel any water that may enter the bilge.
For added safety there is a high velocity ‘trash’ pump that is capable of pumping the total volume of the hull out extremely rapidly.

Surround sound
Passenger comfort is excellent with comfortable seating located along the length of the hull with the passengers facing the large 1.5m x 1m viewing windows.
She also boasts over 3000w of surround sound stereo sound, two 65” LED displays and an Apple Mac Media Center.
There are a series of 28 high candlepower LED light arrays along the outside of the hull which will light up the reef both in the daytime but especially at night.
These will be dinner cruises dubbed ‘Dinner with the Fishes’ where quality meals and refreshments will be served.
The vessel will operate on a reef off Nadi where enhancements arealready being put in place to attract a wide variety of fish species. Transfers to the vessel will be by fast speed boat.
The engines are two three hundred horsepower Suzuki four stroke outboards and a 21.5hp Vetus bow thruster.
Onboard auxiliary power is from a 15kw Briggs and Stratton butane powered generator which will keep air-conditioning and larger systems running.
This is further enhanced by a very large solar panel array, from Sunergise, which will supply power to the intelligent distribution system and feed the LED lighting, sound and electronics.
The vessel will be named ‘The SeaView’ and the operating company is South Sea Subs with their operating base at Port Denarau Marina.
The vessel, and the tourism experience it offers, has generated a lot of interest amongst tour operators Fiji wide and beyond and indications are that the passenger numbers will be good.
For the Fiji tourism numbers to grow, there has to be an increase in the number and variety of experiences available. With the beautiful clear and unpolluted waters of the South Pacific and the abundant sea life in the area, it makes good sense to use the under-water realm for tourists.

$1 million
Rob Moigg, the chief executive of the company operating the vessel says: “We are extremely satisfied with the quality of the work done by the Dave and the guys at Marine Power & Services/ Cobra Boats and pleased that we were able to commission this vessel’s construction here.
“At a cost in excess of FJ$1 million, the construction process will be a significant contribution to the Fiji economy, and we know that operation of the SeaView will certainly add to that contribution. We are looking forward to launching and operating her next year.”
The vessel is scheduled to have its inaugural sailing on Friday March 1, and will be fully operational from then on.
The building of a vessel such as this in Fiji clearly shows that the industry is able to compete at a world standard.
A great deal of this development has been put down to the tax incentives put in place by the government several years ago to protect the local industry and promote further growth.

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