Tonga’s First Pilot Boat Built In Navua

Tonga’s first pilot boat, built and designed specifically for the island, will leave Fiji for the Kingdom on Friday. Designed and built by Navua-based Fijian owned company Bluewater Craft (Fiji),
27 May 2015 08:09
Tonga’s First Pilot Boat Built In Navua
Bluewater Craft owners from left: Chris Tsantihos (Junior) and his father Chris Tsantihos (Senior), with Tonga’s Habour Master and Chief Pilot of ‘Unga, Captain Hakaumotu Fakapelea and his chief engineer Finau Holani on board the Unga pilot boat at Navua yesterday. Photo: Jona Konataci

Tonga’s first pilot boat, built and designed specifically for the island, will leave Fiji for the Kingdom on Friday.

Designed and built by Navua-based Fijian owned company Bluewater Craft (Fiji), the boat has been built specifically for Tonga’s needs and the prevailing maritime conditions.

Mr Chris Tsantihos (Junior), the son of Bluewater Craft owner and boat designer Mr Tsantihos said it took them nine to ten months to build the boat.

“My father designed the boat himself. Normally the client will come and explain to him what they need the boat for and he will design the boat specifically for their needs,” Mr Tsantihos said.

“The Port of Tonga had faith in my father and he was able to deliver as promised.”


At the signing of the agreement between Ports Authority Tonga (PAT), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Bluewater Craft (Fiji) in June 2014, Mr Tsantikos has said that they were honoured to have been chosen by Tonga to build this craft, especially considering the significance of this project to Tonga and they would build a product the Tongan people will be proud of.

And sure enough, Tonga’s Habour Master and Chief Pilot of ‘Unga, Captain Hakaumotu Fakapelea, said the boat has exceeded their expectations.

“We had set out our requirements and Bluewater Craft has gone beyond that. We are happy about it and our board of directors are also happy about it after seeing it during the launch about three weeks ago,” Captain Motu said.

He said they had totally put their trust on Mr Tsantihos and he designed and built the boat like his own.

“We have no proper pilot boat in Tonga and as the chief pilot, this is my boat and it is going to save my life. It is of good quality built under the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) standard.”

Board chairman of PAT Stephen Edwards spoke highly of the boat when he came for the launch in April.

SPC’s Transport Progr-amme was requested by the Tongan authority to oversee the construction of the boat, ensuring that it complies with regional ship building standards and is built in accordance with the contract.

SPC‘s Regional Shipping Adviser John Rounds said having the pilot boat being built in Fiji was a fine example of the various stakeholders in the Pacific maritime sector working together. ‘It will inevitably benefit not only the people of Tonga but other Pacific Island countries as well,’ he said


The boat has inboard engines (built in generators), which is completely different from other pilot boats in the Pacific including Fiji whose boats have outboard motors.

Pilot boats with outboard motors have high risks of catching fire from tankers that arrive in the Port.

The boat can travel up to 25 knots in an hour. The boat sat on a comfortable 20 knots at 50 per cent power in her first trial on April 30 in the Navua River.

“It is believed that this is the fastest pilot boat ever in the Pacific,” Mr Tsantihos (Junior) said.

The boat is believed to have cost the Tongan around $700,000. Captain Motu said they boat will be taken to Tonga on a container boat.

“It was initially planned to have the boat travel to the Kingdom on her own but since the King of Tonga is expected to commission her, we will not allow it to sail,” he said.

“We plan to have the ‘Unga commissioned on June 15.”

About Bluewater Craft

The sleepy Navua River makes a good disguise for the hive of industry at Bluewater Craft.  They are the only company in Fiji able to design and build vessels of any size up to around 50m in either steel or aluminum.

Mr Chris Tsantikos, a Naval Architect by profession who is originally from Greece, has been building boats here in Fiji for over 20 years.

Once he had finished the cruise ship Reef Endeavour, after which he decided to settle in Fiji and take on designing and building his own boats, aiming to supply boats specifically developed to meet the needs of the Pacific Islands.

Using the most up-to-date cutting and construction techniques, the company prides themselves in their strong, stable, safe and fuel efficient designs.

Because their prices are so competitive there is an increasing demand for their boats from all around the Pacific.

Whether you are a commercial operator or looking for a leisure craft they are confident that they will be satisfying your criteria with one of many production models.

Alternatively, they will consult with you as to your needs and design and build you a boat that will be uniquely yours.


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