And that’s even if the tug boat Toa had been able to be used, says Ports Authority general manager Nooroa Tou.
The hold-ups affected the entry into port of the container ship Olomana which was carrying a load of Christmas cargo, and also delayed other cargo ships and fuel carriers.
Tou blamed the situation fairly and squarely on the weather.
“We cannot control the elements. For navigational safety, winds must be a maximum15 knots with a maximum sea current speed of 3 knots), to enable ships to enter and depart Avatiu harbour,” Tou said.
“We do apologise for the inconvenience, but it’s beyond our control.”
With the Toa out of action after its engine was damaged in September, the charter fishing boat Sakulu had assisted with guiding ships into port, said Tou.
Repairs to the 20-year-old tug boat are scheduled to begin next Monday, after the arrival of engineer Grant Buchanan from Express Diesel Ltd in Auckland, New Zealand.
When the engine was dismantled in early November, it was discovered tools were needed for an engine overhaul, Tou said.
These also had to be freighted to the island and the availability of the engineer had also played a part in delaying the repair operation, he added.
Meanwhile, public tenders for the supply and construction of a new aluminum tugboat closed in late October.
The tender is awaiting the government tender committee’s endorsement, after the Ports evaluation group and its board of directors completed their assessment and recommendation.
The timeline for the construction and commissioning of the new tug is around eight months from the signing of the contract.
Following the completion of the Avatiu harbour upgrade in 2012, the size of container cargo vessels that could use the port increased to 117 metres overall length, from 90 metres overall length.
The Toa’s small size sometimes exposed it to navigation safety risks during bad weather, said Tou.
The new tug boat will have more power - around 700 horsepower, to improve its performance when helping ships into the harbour. In comparison, the Toa has a mere 322hp.
The Ports Tender Evaluation Committee includes engineer Ata Herman, naval architect Owen Trott and asset and operations manager Andre Tuiravakai.
The committee’s advice is scheduled to be handed to government early in the New Year.