Rapaki Floating Crane

Engineering Plant (eg railway, locomotive, car, plane)


Rapaki Floating Crane (Copyright Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum 2010)

Rapaki is built of steel and was constructed by Fleming & Ferguson Ltd, in a town called Paisley, on the Clyde in Scotland. Its crane was built by Sir William Arrol & Co, who also built the Forth Railway Bridge completed in 1890.

Fleming and Ferguson had a world-wide reputation for producing a high standard of small ships and steaming vessels. Their yard was responsible for producing many other large steam-powered suction and grab dredgers for essential harbour operations and maintenance work all over the world. Fleming and Ferguson vessels in New Zealand included the Eileen Ward in Wellington, Paritutu in New Plymouth, Kaione in Wanganui and Otakou in Dunedin. The floating cranes Rapaki and Hikitia were purchased for services at Lyttelton harbour and Wellington respectively. The tug Te Awhina, built in ? was also bought from Fleming and Ferguson for duties in Auckland.

The original owners the Lyttelton Harbour Board bought the 80-ton self-propelled floating crane Rapaki for £4200 on December 24, 1925, with the intention of meeting the port’s demand for a heavy lift crane. Nearly four months after the purchase, Rapaki made the delivery voyage to New Zealand with the Scottish delivery master Capt H Liddel Mack, under her own steam. The voyage took a total of 109 days, and they encountered a number of storms and shortages of food and coal along the way. She was in fact, believed lost for a time when she almost ran out of coal on the East Coast of the North Island, but eventually made its way to Gisborne. Rapaki eventually arrived in Lyttelton on July 27, to a strong southerly gale and high seas. She initially went into the Graving Dock to have her crane jib assembled and after being painted and surveyed was ready to commence work on October 14, 1926.

Rapaki's career spanned 62 years at Lyttelton, and her lifts included wharf piles, locomotives, electric generators and transformers, boilers and cranes. She would often regroup the wharf cranes at Lyttelton and unloaded many locomotives during her time here. These included some as heavy as 60 ton diesel electric locomotives for the South Island lines in the late 1960’s. Rapaki has also lifted heavy generators and transformers, and a 60-ton earth-moving machine, that was eventually used at the Auckland Airport.

In 1941 Rapaki was requisitioned by the British Ministry of War Transport to the Red Sea, with the task of clearing sunken ships. The following three years Rapaki was based in Noumea, New Caledonia, working for the US Navy clearing a backlog of heavy loads from transport vessels. As she was the only heavy lift crane in the area at the time, Rapaki was called on to assist in the stripping, repair and refloating of damaged vessels from the Pacific war. Manned by a New Zealand crew with American crane-drivers, they would work around the clock in two twelve-hour shifts. Rapaki was also responsible for clearing a backlog of heavy loads from Liberty ships, and helped to raise a submarine chaser that weighed 81 tonnes. Rapaki was returned to Auckland for a refit, then went to Wellington for a period before returning to Lyttelton in November of 1945.

1960’s saw the arrival of the container age, which meant that there was a steadily declining need for Rapaki. When the Lyttelton Harbour Board bought their first container crane, Rapaki’s days were numbered. She was finally retired in 1988.

RAPAKI (Copyright; Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, 2010)
LENGTH 160 ft (51.82 m)
BEAM 52 ft (15.91 m)
DEPTH 12 ft ( 3.69 m)
DRAUGHT Unladen 6.5 ft (1.96 m)
Maximum 11.35 ft (3.46 m)
BUILDER Fleming & Ferguson Ltd, Paisley, Scotland, 1925
CRANE BUILDER Sir William Arroll @ Co Ltd, Parkhead, Scotland
ENGINES Two 400 IHP Fleming & Ferguson vertical, two-cylinder, direct-acting steam compound
BOILER Anderson Engineers Ltd, Scotch-type wet-back, multi-tubular, 130 psi, installed 1979
BUNKER CAPACITY 145 tons coal
COAL CONSUMPTION 2 - 3 tons per 8-hour shift
LIFTING CAPACITY 80 ton @ 50 ft radius
HEIGHT OF JIB 124 ft above water


No Attachments


The Rapaki is located at the New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland. (www.maritimemuseum.co.nz)


Access Info
The museum is an easy 5 minute walk from the Downtown Britomart Transport Centre westwards along Quay Street to the New Zealand Maritime Museum at Hobson Wharf beside the Viaduct Basin.

Nature of Engineering
Transport (Road, sea, air, incl vehicles)


Floating crane Rapaki, Lyttelton wharf, circa 1926. Reference ID: ½-097349-F. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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Rapaki berthed outside of New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland. Photograph by J. La Roche, IPENZ

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