What’s Wrong With Refurbished Aratere?
What’s gone wrong with the Cook Strait ferry Aratere?
Four return sailings of the Cook Strait ferry Aratere have been cancelled while the cause of “an issue last night” is investigated, as Interislander general manager Thomas Davis puts it.
The Aratere returned home to Wellington mid-September after a five-month extension and refurbishment in Singapore. KiwiRail insists the issues currently affecting Aratere were not “directly linked” to the ship’s recent extension in Singapore.
Aratere experienced a reduction in power in Tory Channel about 7.20pm last night. The master continued into Cook Strait because the weather was mild, and power was restored to the engines shortly afterwards. The ship did not stop at any point, although speed was reduced to 3 knots at the slowest part of its trip.
The ship continued across Cook Strait, but suffered another failure with a fuel control module where a pipe fractured and spraying the space with fuel vapour.
This set off a fire alarm, but there was no fire on the ship. Engines were shut down while an alternative fuel supply was switched on. Aratere continued to Wellington picking up speed to 13 knots along the Wellington south coast, and then completed a slow circle at the Heads to Wellington Harbour, while waiting for a tug to attend alongside as a precautionary measure.
It berthed without assistance at 11.40pm, about two hours later than scheduled. An incident report was filed with Maritime New Zealand at 12.48am.
“The causes of the incident will be identified and fixed before the ship sails again. We apologise to our customers, and are contacting them to move to other sailings. We are disappointed to have these disruptions in our service to our customers, and we are working hard to rectify them
Thomas Davis said there were 142 passengers on board, but they and the crew were not in danger at any time. The ship’s master had made several announcements during the voyage to reassure passengers.
He said the sailings of Aratere – at 0605, 1405, 2205 today and tomorrow’s 0605 from Wellington and return sailings today at 1005, 1825, and tomorrow’s 0205 and 1005 from Picton – have been cancelled so that crew could identify and rectify the problem.
Thomas Davis said Interislander ships are crewed with experienced professional Masters and Chief Engineers who would not take their ships to sea unless they were confident in the ship and its ability to complete the sailing safely. “Interislander takes a precautionary approach – as shown today, when two return sailings have been cancelled to ensure the problem is rectified.”
He said Interislander would work with regulatory authorities MNZ and TAIC to assist any investigations they might do.
The ferry ‘s extension and refurbishment at the Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore involved a new 30-metre mid-body being installed in the ship, as well as a new stern profile, a new bow, new generators, and a total internal refurbishment.
The extension increases Aratere’s capacity by about 30 per cent for rail freight, trucks, and cars, and 100 per cent for passengers.