Cook Strait Ferry: inter-island passenger service reduced to one ship

Waves hit the Interislander ferry on its final journey to Wellington. Video / Provided

Interislander’s ferry service in the Cook Strait will be reduced to a single passenger vessel as it grapples with an increasingly unreliable and aging fleet.

KiwiRail has confirmed that service between the North and South Islands will be reduced in August and September.

While two ships will be in service during this period, the Valentine is cargo-only, which means there will only be one left for passengers.

The disturbance is due to the fact that the Aratere received work in dry dock until August 9 and the Kaitaki underwent work in dry dock between August 16 and September 28.

Interislander executive managing director Walter Rushbrook apologized for the disruption.

“Vehicle deck capacity will be reduced from normal, so customers will need to book in advance and may not get their preferred sailing time. Space remains available for foot passengers.

“We will be releasing reservation space on our website as it becomes available. During this period, we are proactively confirming reservations with our customers to allow us to open up space on our ships. .”

The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the Kaiarahi ferry was ‘catastrophically’ damaged and required the assistance of a European specialist when its gearbox failed last year.

It has been out of use since.

“The bearings and gears were catastrophically damaged during the failure. Additionally, the forces caused by the failure deformed the gearbox housing. In order to access the gearbox, we had to remove some services public and cut across the bridge,” ministerial briefings revealed. .

The KiwiRail Aratere Interislander ferry on Wellington Harbour.  Photo/Mark Mitchell
The KiwiRail Aratere Interislander ferry on Wellington Harbour. Photo/Mark Mitchell

It was first thought the ferry would be back in service in March, then it was pushed back to the middle of this year, but now there is no firm return date.

Rushbrook said they planned to return the Kaiarahi to service before Kaitaki left for drydock work.

“But we have recently been informed that the American company manufacturing some of the spare parts for the repair of its gearbox has experienced delays.

Rushbrook said that, like many things, the problem was because supply chains were badly disrupted and they were still waiting for spare parts to be made.

“We are raising this with their management (of the American company) twice a week to make sure the parts are delivered as soon as possible.”

Rushbrook was hoping to announce a restart date in the near future for the Kaiarahi.

The Valentine was chartered following the gearbox failure as a cargo vessel only to maintain the vital link between the North and South Islands while the Kaiarahi was not sailing.

KiwiRail has ordered two new, larger, rail-capable vessels, which are expected to begin entering service in 2025 and eventually replace the existing fleet.

Nick Leggett, managing director of Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand, said KiwiRail had been very upfront about the scheduled maintenance and that it was an unavoidable situation.

But he said the industry remained concerned about the delay in freight movement.

“This is yet another supply chain pressure that New Zealand is facing at a time when our economy can least afford it. We need to maintain our productivity and we need to grow if we are to combat the thief who is inflation.”

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