Replacement interisland ferry back in service after a day of propellor problems

The replacement inter-island ferry broke down in Wellington Harbour this morning. But after 12 hours it had been cleared to resume service.

At 4.45 this afternoon, KiwiRail advised:

Aratere’s interim replacement ship, Stena Alegra, has been cleared to resume service following an issue that arose this morning on the ship.

Around 5am this morning, the freight-only sailing suffered a partial loss of power on its departure from Wellington which affected some of the control systems for one of the propellers. The source of the fault has been identified and repaired and the ship will resume service at 5pm this evening for its scheduled passenger sailing from Wellington.

The fault resulted in the cancellation of this morning’s freight-only sailing from Wellington and the 9:05am passenger sailing from Picton.

“We apologise to our customers for the disruption this fault caused and thank them for their patience,” Interislander General Manager, Thomas Davis, says.

After the early morning sailing was cancelled, the ship was anchored in Wellington Harbour while staff onboard investigated the fault. The cancelled 9:05am passenger sailing from Picton had 148 passenger vehicles booked, and passengers and cars were moved to alternative sailings.

“Our staff are working hard to find a solution to the fault and get the ship back into operation. We apologise to our customers for the disruption and will issue an update as we have more news,” says Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis at lunchtime.

This afternoon, the ship was berthed at Aotea Quay while technicians were working on the problem.

The Stena Alegra was built in Spain and has been chartered from British owners for six months.

The DomPost says the vessel had been operating on a route between Poland and Sweden, and ran aground during a storm in October.

The following information is on the interisland website today:

Aratere’s interim replacement ship, Stena Alegra, entered service on Monday 13 January with its first passenger sailing departing Wellington for Picton at 5pm.

“Throughout the week we have been working to prepare the ship for operations, including undertaking berthing trials in both Picton and Wellington, loading and unloading equipment, ongoing familiarisation with the ships machinery, equipment and procedures. We have had further berthing trials at Picton before the ship returns carrying freight,” says Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis.

Stena Alegra, will provide two passenger sailings per day – departing from Picton at 9am and then from Wellington at 5pm. Two crossings will be freight-only and two will be a mix of freight and vehicle passengers. Passenger sailing times have proven popular with passengers with heavy bookings in the first few weeks.

“A huge amount of effort has gone into getting the Stena Alegra ready for service. The extra capacity this new ship provides will alleviate the capacity constraint for all traffic across Cook Strait during this busy period, and we are very much looking forward to being able to offer our customers more capacity and more certainty over the coming months,” Mr Davis says.

Media release from NZ First
Winston Peters has revealed that the crew who brought the replacement Cook Strait ferry to Wellington rejected offers by KiwiRail to keep working on the ship while it was used on the Cook Strait run.

Mr Peters says KiwiRail has an uncanny knack of picking “lemons” with the ship breaking down in Wellington Harbour during its first week of service.

“The Cook Strait ferry service is a farce. KiwiRail simply cannot get it right and it keeps making mistakes that are costing millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

“The Aratere was a floating shambles and KiwiRail has simply replaced one mistake with another.

“The Government has been incompetent over this matter for years. It must step in immediately and put a qualified person in charge of the ferry service.

“The present situation simply cannot be allowed to continue.

“Cook Strait can be one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world and it is unsafe to keep using unreliable vessels on the trip between Wellington and Picton with hundreds of people on board,” says Mr Peters.

Media release from NZ Labour Party
The embarrassing break-down of the Stena Alegra, the ferry brought in by KiwiRail to replace the crippled Aratere, gives rise to more questions about safety on our inter-island ferries, says Darien Fenton, Labour’s Transport spokesperson.

“A comedy of errors has played out over several years, culminating with the Aratere losing a propeller in Cook Strait late last year. Now it looks like we’ve got another floating dunger.

“KiwiRail might have moved quickly to replace the crippled ferry, but it’s come at a cost and we need to be confident that the right decisions have been made.

“The Cook Strait service is a critical part of our transport and tourism network. I don’t want to see confidence in this essential service further eroded. KiwiRail has a duty to assure passengers that its replacement ship is safe and reliable, and needs to do so quickly.”

Saturday 18th: No stabilisers, so another sailing cancelled



  1. AnonyMs, 17. January 2014, 11:43

    So, InterIslander? Just a suggestion, but maybe stop buying/renting cheap secondhand ferries .. [via Twitter]

  2. Grant McIntyre, 18. January 2014, 18:16

    This is a consequence of a previous National government flogging off NZ rail to asset strippers. The remains were then purchased by an overseas freight company to strip out the profitable road freight division. Kiwirail staff and management are focused on rebuilding the system.

    If members of Parliament were worked as hard as Kiwirail equipment, perhaps we would have half the members at a quarter of the cost….

  3. Helen Kelly, 19. January 2014, 17:02

    I support Kiwirail not sailing an unknown ship in dodgy weather. There may b issues of how it got here but caution good. [via Twitter]

  4. Phil C, 21. January 2014, 1:00

    Peters makes some good points. The Cook Strait is one of the roughest and most unpredictable straits regularly sailed.

    Privatised rail chose the Aratere’s architects and construction yard poorly. Other ferries brought in on charter need to be carefully assessed for their seaworthiness on the Cook Strait.

    I would imagine that KiwiRail management have been given impossible expectations and minimal budget, which will not help the situation. Best of luck to them and the workers trying to re-build a safe network.


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