Golden Shore mussel harvester

Specialty hydraulics shine on mussel harvester Golden Shore.
A new energy-efficient mussel harvester left Nelson for the Coromandel in December 2014 to help harvest green shell mussels in 83ha of water space.

A long-term partnership building marine vessels

The Golden Shore, a 26-metre vessel, was built by the Nelson-based Fluid Power Solutions (FPS) and Challenge Marine team for the aquaculture industry. Challenge Marine builds the hull and structure while Fluid Power Solutions designs and installs the hydraulics that drive the harvesting equipment, seeding equipment, crane, anchor winch, high flow water pump, bow thruster, and steering.

World-class hydraulics expertise in Nelson

Challenge Marine’s Managing Director Nevil Basalaj says, when it comes to building mussel harvesters, FPS has the best marine knowledge in the country.

“The hydraulic system is the heart of the vessel. It must perform correctly and efficiently to achieve the best harvest rates. FPS’ unique approach where staff are dedicated to individual hydraulic specialties means every aspect of the build - from the mechanical installation to the high volume high pressure ring main piping to the electronic control systems - is done by New Zealand experts.” 

Energy efficient hydraulics

For the Golden Shore, FPS’ Director Gary Allen says the boat has more energy efficient hydraulics than normally used on mussel harvesters that make it better suited to its marine environment.

“The remote controllers for the winches, extension cylinders, thrusters, and the water pump have all been designed with purpose-built stainless steel components that are marine-friendly. Unlike off-the-shelf products, water and salt won’t corrode these custom pieces, meaning they’ll have a long life,” says Gary.

“Our remote controllers are being used on mussel harvesters, fishing trawlers, purseiners, and other vessels, and have been for over ten years. We’ve not had a single failure yet.

“It’s exactly the kind of customised solution we do all the time for our customers.”

One boat to do the work of many

Golden Shore’s owner, Gilbert James of Gold Ridge Marine Farms, located near the harbour at Peeces Point on the Coromandel Peninsula, says he was really pleased to have the boat operating at the start of 2015.

“In 2014 the size of our mussel farm doubled, and the new water can be rough to work in. We had two alloy barges that were the first two ever built for the mussel industry 27 years ago. But they were getting on in age and we decided, after a long life, they’re ready for lighter duties,” says Gilbert. “The Golden Shore easily handles the expansion of our farm all by herself.

“I was very impressed with Challenge Marine and the Fluid Power team when I met them,” Gilbert says. “The quality of the FPS service is very high and they were knowledgeable, easy to talk to, and receptive to our input.”

Gary has the same confidence in his team. “We know we are one of the only firms in the country who have the expertise to do this work. And we deliver every time to a very high standard. Our customers also know this and new clients who come to us have heard it. We are confident in ourselves and the feedback we get reinforces that we’re delivering a superior product to every customer.”

Customer-focussed design

The Fluid Power team also customised the hydraulics on the Golden Shore to be more fuel conscious.

“We know our marine clients are paying attention to the cost of fuel these days. It’s expensive to operate a work boat like the Golden Shore year-round. Our goal for this boat was to lift our game on fuel efficiency,” Gary says. “If we save 2-3 litres of fuel per hour, that’s going to amount to a decent savings over the course of a year for a boat that operates for thousands of hours.”

‘She’s going to be very busy’

Gilbert took the boat from Nelson before Christmas 2014, across the waters of the Cook Strait, around and up the west and then down into the Coromandel towards home. “She handled some rough sea conditions extremely well. She’s going to do well at home. Between long line construction, seeding, repairing broken and sunken lines, and harvesting the finished product, she’s going to be very busy.”