Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Norfolk Island Lighters 2015

Norfolk Islander's continue the traditional methods for unloading freight from cargo ships.  The island has no 'safe harbour', there are two jetties on opposite sides of the island for the cargo to be landed.  The 'lighterage' method involves a lighter towed by a motor launch to ferry the goods between ship and shore.  A derrick crane and nets are used to lift and move the cargo in and out of the lighters. 

Sea freight was the only method of importing items to Norfolk Island until the building of the airport by American and New Zealand servicemen in 1945. Commercial flights began in 1947 and the opportunity to import items by air freight shortly thereafter, but to this day over 90% of imported goods are transported by two cargo ships which visit the island on a once every five week schedule.

In the early hours of Saturday morning 11 May 2013 a senseless act of vandalism happened on  Cascade Pier when lighter No.1 was deliberately set on fire. Not only was the lighter completely destroyed but also the island’s supply of cargo nets and the spreader beams used for transporting cars and trucks on the lighters when they were lashed together for this purpose.


The long awaited decision was finally given for work to commence on the building of a replacement lighter. Work began immediately by John Christian-Bailey of JCB and Dean Burrell, an experienced boat builder, under the watchful eye of the Lighterage Manager, Glen Williams.

In its lifetime, a lighter earns approximately $2.2 million in revenue for the island and carries approximately 30,000 tonnes. It takes four months to build from start to finish, 4,000 thousand copper nails to hold it together and is in use for up to twenty years. It is a practical object; a work of art and a legacy to the men who are building it. 

Peter Horrocks, of the Museum Trust, moved that the building of the lighter be photographically recorded for inclusion in the Norfolk Island Museum Collection.

Janelle Blucher, A/g Director Curator and Gaye Evans, Asst. Curator/Conservation Officer visited the Lighterage Maintenance Depot at Middlegate and spoke with the Manager of Lighterage, Glen ‘Snoop’ Williams and Dean Burrell, local shipbuilder. The frames hang vertically from the ceiling until such time as they are needed.

The plank for the keel has been carefully chosen and placed into position.

Work on the bowstem has commenced. This must be strong enough to endure the years of toil the lighter will give to the Island whilst ferrying cargo.

 Regular posts on the building of the lighter will be uploaded to this blog.

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