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Wellington’s historic heavy lift floating crane

ikitia is an important part of Wellington’s rich maritime history.

Befitting such status, she resides in a pride-of-place location on Wellington’s waterfront at the Taranaki Street Wharf, near Te Papa.

Launched in Glasgow, Scotland in 1926 she arrived in Wellington, to great fanfare, on 21 December 1926.

The ship remains almost unchanged from the day she was launched and is now unique in the world as the last working example of its kind – a steam powered heavy lift floating crane.

Hikitia was a workhorse from 1926 to 1990 in Wellington’s Port Nicolson, belonging to the Wellington Harbour Board, predecessor to the present CentrePort.

Wellington’s history is inextricably linked to the sea and the port and Hikitia is a rare and outstanding example of that history that is still very much alive. The machinery functions impeccably – albeit she is not currently self-propelled – and she still works as a floating crane, and for numerous other things such as an event venue and floating museum.

Ownership of the vessel was transferred to the Maritime Heritage Trust of Wellington on 16 March 2006. The Trust’s objectives are to promote maritime heritage in the Wellington region.

Major refurbishments were carried out on Hikitia during docking at Lyttelton in 2009 including major hull repair and reconditioning of all below water valves and propeller shafts. The hull, crane and deck were painted.

The Trust’s objectives remain to restore the ability to be self-propelled and return to lifting its design weight of 80tonne. This demonstrates the purpose for which it was built and continues the ship’s service to Wellington in maintaining port infrastructure and assisting with civil defence.

See the history of Hikitia


Hikitia in Lyttelton dock June 2009 with the 1907 tug SS Lyttelton




Hikitia has a guiding document, the Conservation Plan, that outlines conservation policies, a programme of works and establishes an appropriate level of intervention that allows the ship to operate as a working vessel to demonstrate the purpose for which it was built and yet retain its significant heritage values. Written in 2008 by Historian and Heritage Consultant Michael Kelly, this document has been very useful and much referred to as a reminder of objectives and gives credibility to the methods used to preserve the vessel. Much of the recommended works have been done including the major first Docking for 28 years that was carried out in 2009 at Lyttleton. It would be useful to now rewrite this Plan to again focus our attention on the way forward. Warning – it is a 104 page document!SEE IT HERE 





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