Jim Barker was the kind of man who saw opportunities not problems. As the founder of Strait Shipping Jim introduced a new shipping service into Cook Strait in 1992.
He didn’t do it because he was tempted by a life at sea, but because he needed a competitive, reliable way to shift livestock between North and South. With escalating prices and frequent disruptions, he saw no way around it – he had to get his own ship.
Along with three other shareholders, Jim located the MV Straitsman in Tasmania – a small walk-on walk-off ro-ro with pens able to carry 400 cattle. The ship made its inaugural sailing in May 1992. Our newest ship is renamed after this iconic first boat.
From these early beginnings we have expanded our services to meet the needs of new customers, introducing healthy competition and exciting changes to the Cook Strait route. Our next ship, the Suilven from Scotland, signalled the start of Freightlines (part of our group link) and captured the needs of the freight market.
Next came the Kent from Ireland, capable of carrying 30 trucks compared to 13 on the Suilven. This increase in capacity opened up a better quality service for our freight customers and the ability to offer more sailings with up to four a day.
Our decision to launch a passenger service that gave travellers a true Kiwi experience when crossing Cook Strait – and again introduce competition to what was a monopoly market – was another major leap forward.
So in early 2002, after a long search to find the Santa Regina, Bluebridge was born.