Ship part

The Edwin Fox is the oldest merchant ship in the world. Does Marlborough take care of it?

By Maia Hart, local democracy reporter

The roof of the world’s oldest merchant ship is leaking and the walls of its dry dock are letting in seawater.

The Edwin Fox could be a ‘hero’ for promoting Picton’s maritime heritage, but she faces ‘irreparable damage’.
Photo: LDR / Maia Hart

And there are fears that the Edwin Fox, built in 1853, could be damaged beyond repair if her home on the Picton foreshore is not repaired soon.

On top of that, the sprinkler system at the Edwin Fox Ship and Visitor Center isn’t up to snuff – it was the sprinkler system to protect the oldest surviving wooden ship that brought immigrants to Nova Scotia. Zeeland, when it was a merchant ship. And it was the last ship to carry convicts to Australia.

Marlborough Heritage Trust executive director Steve Austin said Marlborough was lucky to have the ship, but now was the time to “step up” and invest in it.

Austin said the Edwin Fox was at the “centerpiece of international globalization”.

Evidence of a water leak in the drydock of the Edwin Fox.

Evidence of a water leak in the drydock of the Edwin Fox.
Photo: LDR / Maia Hart

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“I think if Picton is going to put its best foot forward, then its maritime heritage is really going to be the key brand for Picton going forward, and of course the Edwin Fox is the star item.

“We’re very, very lucky to have him here at Marlborough. We just have to be able to step up and really own all that it can be and really see the investment because eventually we’re going to reap the rewards. .”

The Marlborough Heritage Trust has asked the council in an annual plan submission for just over $30,000 to help fund a third of the total cost of bringing the ship and its drydock into compliance. They needed a third party to apply for funding through the Major Lotteries Fund.

The Edwin Fox, built in 1853, is the last ship to transport convicts to Australia and the oldest merchant ship in the world.

The Edwin Fox, built in 1853, is the last ship to transport convicts to Australia and the oldest merchant ship in the world.
Photo: LDR / Maia Hart

“The Edwin Fox is no longer in a condition to be refloated and any water in the drydock represents potential irreparable damage,” the brief states.

“The maintenance of the dry dock has been a constant concern since its construction in 1999.”

The trust’s bid outlines the various repairs and maintenance required to bring the center up to standard.

The roof of the drydock, built in 2000, had leaking panels, which meant water was hitting the ship’s structure. The panels and their fixings had to be replaced and the descents improved.

The steel structure of the dry dock, which keeps water away from the ship, needs to be repaired.

The Edwin Fox is in dry dock on the Picton foreshore.

The Edwin Fox is in dry dock on the Picton foreshore.
Photo: LDR / Maia Hart

The trust was also looking to update the large writing on the roof, which was peeling, fading and “generally looking tired”. The trust argued that it would be “more prudent” to make the sign at the same time as the roof.

The tender also stated that the steel door to the dry dock needed a concrete and epoxy wall to properly keep sea water out. A concrete wall would help mitigate the holes in the dry dock door. However, the wall could be built, so it could be extended later to combat projected sea level rise, according to the submission.

However, he said the sprinkler system needed to be updated first, as it no longer passed a buildability warrant and, in any case, was only designed to protect the vessel from ” very basic way”.

“Displays have been updated (including the addition of cabins and bunk beds) so the sprinkler system design needs to be updated,” the submission reads.

A new panel should cost around $4,000.
Photo: LDR / Maia Hart

He said that with the construction of the new ferry terminal and the planned demolition of the EcoWorld aquarium next to it, the drydock would experience “considerable vibration”. They had worked with Port Marlborough and Heritage New Zealand, but the risks further “aggravated” the need for maintenance.

Price of repairs indicated:

  • Sprinkler repair work – $2,949 emergency and $10,145 later to upgrade the system.
  • Dry Dock Repairs (Steel) – $28,362
  • Repairs in drydock (concrete) – $6,819
  • Roof and downspout repairs – $41,841
  • Sign repairs – $3,950

Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air