Holcim says it will order a $50 million replacement ship for the 32-year-old coastal cement carrier MV Westport, probably late next year.
It expects to commission the ship into service in 2012.
Company spokesman Ken Cowie says the Westport has given solid service delivering cement to ports around the New Zealand coast line.
He says the ship is running well, but by the time a new ship arrives, she will be 36 years old. “She can’t go on forever.”
Holcim has a younger vessel which also plies the coastal cement delivery route, the MV Milburn Carrier.
The planned new ship will be too large for local shipbuilding contractors to construct and is likely to be built in Asia.
Mr Cowie says a major consideration in its design is that it must be able to fit into New Zealand’s largest dry dock, located at Devonport Naval Base, Auckland.
The final design of the ship has not yet been decided because it is unknown whether she will operate out of Westport or Timaru, the harbours of the two ports having different characteristics.
The uncertainty is because Holcim wants to establish a new cement works near Oamaru. If it succeeds with various environment court matters soon to be heard, the new ship will be designed to use the nearby port of Timaru.