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Floating dock breaks moorings in Wellington Harbour

29 December 1931

Wellington’s Jubilee floating dock, 1988
Wellington’s Jubilee floating dock, 1988 (Alexander Turnbull Library, EP/1988/4712/19)

Built in England, the Wellington Harbour Board’s new Jubilee Dock was 178 m long, 36 m wide and could lift ships displacing 17,000 tons. It cost about £250,000 (equivalent to $28.5 million in 2020).

Two Dutch tugs undertook the record 22,000-km tow via the Suez Canal, which began on 15 July. The dock’s 11-man crew lived on board.

Excitement grew as the dock neared Wellington. Locals could accompany it from the Heads by ferry for 1s 6d ($8.50) or view it from the air for the ‘small charge’ of £1 ($115). Thousands more watched from the shore.

The dock entered the harbour on the afternoon of the 28th and anchored that evening. Next morning it was moved to a purpose-built dock. It slipped its temporary moorings in a northerly gale later that day, but was secured by the Dutch tugs.

Its first lift, of the Ruahine, was made on 2 April 1932.

Too small to take container ships, the floating dock was eventually sold. In 1989, it broke in two in the Tasman Sea while being towed to Bangkok.

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Floating dock breaks moorings in Wellington Harbour, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated