A former cargo vessel has been renamed MV Ywam Koha in a special ceremony held in Tauranga Harbour as part of its transformation into an aid ship to help remote Pacific island communities.

The 48m-long ship was gifted to Christian humanitarian organisation Youth With a Mission Ships Aotearoa (Ywam) in April this year by Nigel and Brenda Jolly from Stoney Creek Shipping Company.

Chairman of Ywam Aotearoa Brett Curtis said the decision to rename the ship was twofold.

The ship anchored offshore. Photo / Supplied
The ship anchored offshore. Photo / Supplied

"It's in recognition of the amazing gift Nigel and Brenda have bestowed, and also acknowledges our vision that this vessel will be a gift to isolated Pacific islands."

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Ywam Koha is due to sail down to Lyttleton for dry-dock maintenance in early spring before being relaunched as a volunteer-based medical aid ship.

It will then be taken on a multi-port promotional tour around New Zealand to raise awareness, supplies and funds for her future deployment.

"Once the cyclone season has finished in early May 2020, we will sail Ywam Koha north and serve as many isolated islands as possible for the following six months," Curtis said.

Shipping containers stowed on Ywam Koha's deck will be converted into medical or dental clinics, operating theatres and X-ray units, among other functions.

Curtis said most of the work the organisation does was in the villages themselves.

"We anchor close to shore and can then provide primary health care, preventative medicine such as vaccinations, oral health checks and eye examinations to these remote communities."

Dignitaries attending the blessing of the ship this morning. Photo / Supplied
Dignitaries attending the blessing of the ship this morning. Photo / Supplied

Although the exact itinerary is yet to be confirmed Curtis said island nations stretching between the Solomons in the west and Tonga in the East are being considered for this inaugural outreach.

"We are following our nation's earlier routes to Melanesia from Mission Bay in Auckland, where New Zealanders played a major role in the development of so many island nations.

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"Now many of their villages located on some of their more isolated outer islands desperately need New Zealand's help."

The ship will have the capacity to carry containers, supplies, crew and volunteers to assist with everything from education to medical and developmental projects.

Operations Director Marty Emmett said the Pacific Islands were the most geographically challenging islands on planet Earth.

"The vast majority have no airstrips and no bridges connecting them, so the only way to reach them is via ship."

This morning's naming ceremony was attended by Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless, Deputy Mayor Kevin Clout, several councillors, Ywam volunteers and Nigel and Brenda Jolly.

A blessing was also performed.

The couple said their decision to donate the vessel to Ywam was out of a desire to see the boat looked after and do something they can be proud of.

It has been based in Tauranga for the past nine years and was previously used to carry supplies to Pitcairn Island for the British Government.