Wahine Facts




Official Number


Call sign



New Zealand

Port of Registry

Wellington, New Zealand

Year completed



The Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Ltd.


Twin screw, turbo-electric, drive-on vehicle and passenger ship.

Material of construction


Built for

The Wellington-Lyttelton Steamer Express Service.



The Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd, Govan, Glasgow, Scotland. Registered Office: Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, London.
In receivership: 15 October 1965.
Vessel completed by Fairfields (Glasgow) Ltd.

Contract Number

830, dated 18 March 1964. New contract with Fairfields (Glasgow) Ltd dated 6 January 1966.

Price to build

£3,042,175.00 (fixed contract price)

Water-tight compartments


Water-tight bulkheads


Number of double bottom tanks


Contract delivery date

31 October 1965

Hull number


Contract speed

22 knots (40.75 kms per hr)

Date when name announced

5 June 1964

First steel laid in place

14 September 1964, Fairfields Number Two Building Berth.

Safety compliance

The Wahine's design was fully compliant with:
(a) the requirements of the 1948 International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea;
(b) the 1960 International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea;
(c) the New Zealand Shipping and Seamen's Act 1952 and amendments dated 1954, 1957 & 1959.

Ship's launch

14 July 1965

Ships's sponsor

Mrs F K Macfarlane

Ship completed

Late May 1966

Trials conducted

27 May 1966 and 14 June 1966

Maximimum speed on trials

21.7 knots (40.2 kms per hr)

Ship accepted by owner

18 June 1966, at Greenock, Scotland

Ship's maiden arrival

24 July 1966, at Wellington, New Zealand

Ship's first master

Captain EKG Meatyard

Ship's first chief officer

Mr R McMillan

Ship's chief engineer

Mr H Wareing



488 feet 9 inches overall (LOA) (148.97 metres)
440 feet between particulars (LBP) (134.11 metres)


79 feet five-eigths of an inch over bridge wings (24.09 metres)
72 feet 7 inches over rubbing strakes at widest point of hull (22.12 metres)

Depth Moulded to C Deck at side

41 feet 6 inches (12.65 metres)

Depth Moulded to Vehicle Deck (E Deck) at side

21 feet (6.4 metres)


17 feet 4 inches fully loaded, to bottom of keel (5.28 metres)
Normal mean working draught: 17 feet (5.18 metres)

Gross Register Tonnage

8,943.78 tons (increased to 8,948 grt 28 April 1967)

Net tonnage

3,950.71 tons


Wahine was built to comply with the requirements of IMO SOLAS 1960 Convention.
Certificate of Survey issued on 17 June 1966 by the British Board of Trade.
Vessel surveyed to Lloyd's Register of Shipping as: "Plus 100 A1 Ferry".
Certificates of Survey issued by the Marine Department, Government of New Zealand, on 16 June 1966 and 17 April 1967, the latter having an expiry date of 16 July 1968.


Main Engines

Located in the Wahine's main turbo-alternator room:
Two propulsion turbo-alternator sets manufactured by Associated Electrical Industries Ltd (AEI) of Rugby, England. Each comprised a single cylinder, high pressure, horizontal impulse type, 13 stage steam turbine rotating at a maximum 3,080 rpm (revolutions per minute). Maximum designed power for both turbines, either ahead and astern: 18,000 shp (shaft horse power) and 220 propeller revolutions per minute. Normal service speed power, both turbines, either ahead and astern: 12,000 shp and 193 propeller revolutions per minute.

Each turbine was connected by a semi-flexible diaphragm type coupling to a propulsion alternator. The alternators were air-cooled and of a horizontal revolving field non-salient pole type, generating 6,900 kW of electricity for the propulsion motors when the turbine was at its maximum 3,080 rpm.


Located in the Wahine's forward and after boiler rooms: Four Foster-Wheeler D oil-fired, forced-draft marine boilers, two per boiler room, manufactured by Fairfield-Rowan Ltd of Govan, Glasgow. Maximum water evaporation: 55,000 pounds per hour, producing super-heated steam for the turbines at 600 psi (pounds per square inch) and a temperature of 850 degrees Fahrenheit.

Propulsion motors

Located in the Wahine's propulsion motor room, immediately aft of the main turbo-alternator room: Two double unit, salient pole electric motors manufactured by Associated Electrical Industries Ltd (AEI) of Rugby, England. Each double motor had a maximum rating of 9,000 shp (shaft horse power) at 220 rpm (revolutions per minute). Each double motor was coupled directly to a propeller shaft and able to function independently of the other.

Normal service speed was 17 knots (31.5 kms per hr). Maximum speed was 21.7 knots (40.2 kms per hr).
During her full power builder's trials in the Firth of Clyde, the Wahine unofficially reached a top speed of 22.4 knots.

Auxiliary machinery

Located in the Wahine's auxiliary turbo-alternator room: Three turbo-alternator sets manufactured by Associated Electrical Industries Ltd (AEI) of Rugby, England. Each comprised a single cylinder, horizontal type, seven stage impulse steam turbine rotating at a maximum 8,518 rpm (revolutions per minute), driving its alternator through double helical reduction gearing. The alternators each generated 650kW of electricity for the ship's hotel, lighting and domestic needs plus the ship's four lateral thruster units. When in use, the thruster units in the Wahine's bow required the full output of one of these three alternators.

Emergency power supply

On the Wahine's boat deck, starboard side forward: One Davey Paxman type 8 RPHx diesel engine running at 1,000 rpm, driving a 200 kW alternating current generator. For use in the event of failure or non-availability of the auxiliary turbo-alternators.

Side thrusters

4 sets of Pleuger lateral thrust units, electrically powered; two on either side of the Wahine's bow, two on either side of her stern. Used for manoeuvring the ship when reversing into the Inter-island terminals at Wellington and Lyttelton. Manufactured by Pleuger Unterwasserpumpen GMBH, Hamburg, Germany.


Two, each having four blades and made of bronze, manufactured by Stone's Manganese Marine Ltd of London to their Helliston Design, and each with the following:
Developed area: 76 sq feet (7.06 sq metres)
Diameter: 12 feet 0 inches (3.65 metres)
Pitch: 11 feet 8 inches (3.55 metres)
Weight: 5.9 tons
Depth of water from keel to upper tip of propellers: 12 feet 6 inches



Two motor lifeboats 26 feet in length, 8 feet 5 inches width, 3 feet 7½ inches height (keel to gunwale) (7.92 x 2.56 x 1.1 metres). Each had a 50 persons capacity. Each was fitted with one 15 hp air-cooled Lister diesel motor.

Six hand-propelled lifeboats 31 feet in length,10 feet 5 inches width, 4 feet 7 inches height (keel to gunwale) (9.45 x 3.17 x 1.39 metres). Each had a 99 persons capacity. Each was fitted with Viking hand-propelling gear (comprising a series of vertical levers which turned a central propeller shaft when moved from side to side).

All eight boats were constructed in fibreglass and manufactured by Viking Marine Co Ltd, Southampton, Great Britain. They were mounted on MacLachlan gravity type self-actuating davits with electric winches.

Total capacity of all eight lifeboats: 694 persons.

Life rafts

36 Beaufort davit-launched inflatable rubber life rafts, each with a 25 persons capacity. Manufactured by Beaufort (Air-Sea) Equipment Ltd of Birkenhead, England.

Each life raft was 17 ft 8 inches in length, 11 feet 4¼ inches width, 4 feet 9 inches height (5.4 x 3.4 x 1.4 metres). Weight when packed: 365 pounds (165.5 kgs). Floor seating area when fully inflated: 100 sq feet.

Packed in neoprene-proofed valises stowed under 12 double-backed marine plywood seats.

The life rafts were swung outboard, inflated, loaded and lowered in the sea using four Schat motorised single arm davits (like small cranes) manufactured by Schat Davits Ltd, Great Britain.

Total capacity of 35 life rafts: 875 persons.

Also, four 20 person buoyant solid timber rafts were carried aboard the Wahine. Total capacity: 80 persons.

Total capacity of all the Wahine's lifeboats and life rafts: 1,674 people.

Life jackets

1,224 in total, comprising: 1124 British Board of Trade orange-coloured standard life jackets for persons weighing 70 pounds or more; 100 Salvus lifejackets, white in colour, for persons weighing less that 70 pounds. Also 18 lifebuoys.

Vehicle Deck:

The Wahine's vehicle decks comprised the main vehicle deck and the forward garage, both on E Deck, and the upper garage on D Deck. The main vehicle deck and the forward garage totalled 380 feet (115.8 metres) in length.

The total capacity of the Wahine's vehicle decks was 200 cars. The Wahine was not fitted with rail tracks for carrying railway wagons.

Access to the vehicle decks was via a hydraulically-operated, water-tight steel door recessed into the Wahine's stern. The door folded inwards and upwards when opened. It measured 16 feet wide by 18 feet in height (4.8 x 5.4 metres). On 10 April 1968 this stern door was not damaged and remained fully water-tight. Inboard of the stern door was a mechanically powered turntable 18 feet in diameter for turning cars and trucks within the confines of the main vehicle deck.

Maximum headroom on the main vehicle deck was 14 feet three inches (4.34 metres). In the forward garage the maximum headroom was 10 feet eight inches (3.2 metres). The upper garage was 96 feet (29.3 metres) long, with 9 feet (2.7 metres) of headroom and, like the main vehicle deck, extended across the full width of the ship. Unlike the main vehicle deck, the upper garage had windows along its sides. There was space in this garage for approximately 50 and/or light vans.

The Wahine was also equipped with a portable car deck for use during holiday seasons when demand for transport of cars reached its peak. This portable car deck was located aft on the main vehicle deck, where there was 18 feet 6 inches (5.6 metres) of headroom. It was lowered in sections from the top of the vehicle deck, as and when needed, and movable ramps were then put in place so that cars could be driven up onto it. The portable car deck had its own manually operated turntable 16 feet (4.8 metres) in diameter, as did the upper garage.


The Wahine was fitted with the following telecommunications equipment:

1. Main MF/HF Transmitter: Oceanspan VII, Serial No 1439

2. Main Receiver: Marconi Atalanta, Serial No 2684

3. RT Transmitter/Receiver: Marconi Kestrel, Serial No 771 / 881

4. Emergency Transmitter: Marconi Salvor II 3758A, Serial No 418

5. Emergency Receiver: Marconi Monitor MN02/2030/01, Serial No 129/119

6. VHF Radio Telephone (on bridge): Marconi Harbafone. Serial No 12031B

7. Auto Alarm: Marconi Lifeguard, Serial No 71

8. Radio Direction Finder: Marconi Lodestone IV, Serial No 4838

9. Automated Key Unit (AKU): Marconi Autokey T10978B, Serial No 2001

10. Echo Sounder (on bridge): Kelvin Hughes MS26B, Serial No 0626N

11. Broadcast Amplifier: Marconi Electra Pantenna

12. Lifeboat Radio: Clifford Snell Survivor

13. Radar (on bridge): Kelvin Hughes 14/12, Transmitter Serial No 4072, Scanner unit Serial No 14064, Main console Serial No 121293

Passengers & Crew:


The Wahine carried a maximum of 1,050 passengers and crew.

As at 10 April 1968 the Wahine had accommodation for 924 berthed passengers in 380 cabins spread over seven decks. All passengers were of the same one class (i.e. there was no "economy class" or "business class" as with airliners). For daylight sailings, when many would not require cabins, the Wahine was permitted to carry a maximum of 1,100 passengers.

Of the 924 passengers 106 were accommodated on A Deck, 221 on B Deck, 319 on C Deck, 132 on D Deck, 46 on E Deck and 100 on F deck.

Cabin accommodation

Of the Wahine's 380 passenger cabins, 61 had private bathroom and toilet facilities. Of these 61, two were rated as "De Luxe" with ensuite bathrooms, 21 were single berth with toilet and shower, 20 were single berth with toilet only, and 18 were two berth with toilet and shower.

Of the Wahine's 319 passenger cabins without private bathroom and toilets, 14 were single berth, 48 were two berth, 144 were two berth with upper and lower bunk, 21 were three berth with bunks, 90 were four berth with bunks, and two cabins had 12 bunk berths each. A total of 32 showers spread throughout the passenger accommodation were provided for these 319 cabins. All cabins had hand basins with hot and cold running water.


The Wahine normally carried a crew of 126 men and women, comprising the Master, 22 Officers and 103 Other Ranks. The crew was organised into four departments each with an officer in charge who reported to the Master.

On 10 April 1968 a crew of 123 was aboard the Wahine, plus one seaman stowaway. In addition to the Master, the four crew departments comprised the following that day:

(a) the Deck Department (responsible for navigation, cargo and seamanship): 3 navigating officers, 1 radio officer, 1 bosun, 18 seamen. 23 in total. Officer in charge: Mr R S Luly, Chief Officer.

(b) The Engine Department (responsible for the ship's machinery and electrical plant): 8 engineering officers, 2 electrical officers, 1 donkeyman, 12 engine and boiler room ratings. 23 in total. Officer in charge: Mr H Wareing, Chief Engineer.

(c) The Providore Department (responsible for hotel services): Chief Steward, Chief Stewardess, 2 Second Stewards, 57 stewards, 6 stewardesses, I chief cook, 4 assistant cooks. 72 in total. Officer in charge: Mr R C Gifford, Chief Steward. (On 9-10 April 1968 the ship was minus three stewards from her usual complement of 75.)

(d) The Purser's Department (responsible for clerical administration of the ship): Chief Purser and Senior Assistant Purser plus two Assistant Pursers, total of 4. Officer in Charge: Mr B A Clare, Purser.

Seven members of the Wahine's crew lost their lives on 10 April 1968. They comprised one officer (an assistant purser) three crew members from the Provedore Department (two stewards and a pantry-man) two crew members from the Engine Department and one seaman stowaway.

General Fittings:

The Wahine was equipped with the following:

Kelvin Hughes standard magnetic compass (the ship had no gyro compass).

Flume Stabilisation System, to reduce rolling.

Bow rudder.

Three Byers Improved stockless-type bower anchors, all identical. Two were carried in recesses on each side of the ship's bow, one was carried on the foredeck as a spare.

Three automatic, electrically powered, self-tensioning winches manufactured by A.S. Hydraulik Brattvaag, Norway. One fitted to the foredeck port side, one each of the two mooring decks (port and starboard) at the Wahine's stern.

One electrically powered, direct grip anchor and mooring windlass manufactured by A.S. Hydraulik Brattvaag, Norway. Fitted to the Wahine's foredeck. Able to lift not less than 12 tons at 26 feet per minute. Having a warping pull of not less than 4 tons at 80 feet per minute, and a slack rope speed of 160 feet per minute.

Two bronze four-bladed propellers each weighing approx 5 tons and of 12 feet diameter.

Fluorescent lighting throughout.

Ventilation by the punkah-louvre system throughout the crew and passenger accommodation, manufactured and supplied by Thermotank Ltd of Glasgow.

Two electrically operated signal horns mounted on the ship's funnel, whistle type TE 300 ME.

The Wahine's funnel was 36 feet 6 inches long (fore-and-aft) 17 feet 9 inches wide (port to starboard) and 38 feet 3 inches at its highest point. It was shaped as a perfect ellipse with an offset focal point. After being cut from the wreck of the Wahine and taken ashore on 10 September 1968, the funnel was purchased by Sir Len Southward of the Southward Car Museum at Paraparaumu. Unfortunately it was stored outside in the weather. After a number of years the funnel had deteriorated to the point where what remained of it was cut up for scrap. The two signal horns were also acquired by Sir Len Southward but when an enquiry was made in 2012 as to their whereabouts, his museum reported it was no longer able to find them.

This is the timetable, with extra sailings listed in red, that the Wahine maintained during the summer peak season 1967-1968, three months before her loss. It was just the second summer peak season of her very short working life, and the last. TEV Maori was the other ship on the Wellington-Lyttelton service. Captain Gordon Robertson was in command of the Wahine for all sailings on this timetable.