Cook Strait Ferry Terminal, Picton

Engineering Work (eg road, bridge, sawmill, dam)


An integral part of the national railway system, the Picton terminal handles 3 million tonnes of freight and 750,000 passengers annually and has been in operation since 1962.

There were severe site constraints, with the need to maintain the existing service without interruption during the construction of No 2 berth and erection of the overpass over highway and rail yards; the conversion of No 1 berth including lengthening the longarm and replacing the linkspan and gangways; and the subsequent conversion of No 2 berth for larger vessels. Dominant factors were urgency, economy, the limitations of the port itself and the desirability of high standards of public amenity.

Technical features included:

  •  The design of berth structures including fendering.
  • The pile foundations designed for low-cost construction over water and economic variation of depth.
  • The stream diversion culvert under road and railway yards which remained in service.
  • The stern buffers for exceptional impact loading, rail linkspan seatings on the vessels, offset from the axis of girders, a unique linkage to allow for heeling of vessels under loading and unloading of trains.
  • The road linkspan seatings on the vessels for exceptional displacements in three modes.

As of 1990, total reliability of operation over 37 years had been achieved.

Consultant engineers: Ian Macallan & Co
Principal contractors: T.H. Barnes, Cresswell Electrical, Downer & Co, Fisenden Bros, C.W.F. Hamilton, Kidson Construction, Thompson & Devanny, Wilkins & Davies

Heritage recognition
IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project
This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this ferry terminal as part of the development of the nation.


No Attachments


Picton, South Island


Access Info

Nature of Engineering
Rail Transportation, Building and Construction, Transport (Road, sea, air, incl vehicles)


Aramoana at Picton, circa 1962-64. Goodall, Gladys Mary, 1908-: Scenic photographs of New Zealand. Ref: GG-10-0065-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

(Click image to enlarge )

Lat: -41.284748 Long: 174.004973