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Bad weather hampers Cook Strait ferry repairs, more sailings cancelled

Author
Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Nov 2023, 9:07pm
The large hole on the side of Interislander's Kaiarahi. Photo / Regan Ingley
The large hole on the side of Interislander's Kaiarahi. Photo / Regan Ingley

Bad weather hampers Cook Strait ferry repairs, more sailings cancelled

Author
Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Nov 2023, 9:07pm

Bad weather has held up repairs to Interislander’s Kaiarahi ferry after she hit a wharf coming into berth at Wellington, ripping a hole in the hull.

The ferry company announced further cancelled sailings across Cook Strait today after the incident on November 12.

Interislander operations general manager Duncan Roy said the company originally thought it would take a week to repair the ferry, but poor weather conditions last week meant things could not move as quickly as hoped.

But repair work on the hull has now progressed thanks to fairly settled weather over the weekend, he said.

“A first steel plate was fitted and welded last night. A second steel plate was cut and fitted this morning.

“Once complete the repairs will need to be weld-tested ultrasonically, and the finished job inspected by a third-party surveyor before sailing.”

Roy said Interislander has arranged alternative sailings for all customers booked on Kaiarahi up until Wednesday morning.

“Our team has worked through the weekend and nights to get repairs done as quickly as possible and we appreciate everyone’s patience while our team works through the repairs.”

National Road Carriers Association policy and advocacy general manager James Smith said normally it would be a busy time of year for freight across Cook Strait with Christmas approaching.

“Despite the belief of children, their presents are not delivered by sleigh, they are in fact delivered by truck.

“However, there is a significant downturn in economic activity, so volumes are well down so far this year as most families have been clobbered by increased mortgage rates and other cost of living increases.”

Volumes usually started to rise in October and peaked in the week prior to Christmas to as much as three times the amount during off-peak times.

“Feedback this year is there is yet to be any increase and many are roughly 30 per cent below.”

Smith confirmed operators were being booked on to other sailings.

KiwiRail had leased and eventually purchased a freight-only ship called the Valentine to provide extra capacity when Kaiarahi was out of service for more than a year due to “catastrophic damage” to her gearbox in 2021.

However, Kiwirail sold Valentine this year to free up crew and money to improve the reliability of its remaining vessels.

The new owners took possession of the ship on September 18 and it left for Greece shortly after.

Smith said Valentine was not suited for Cook Strait operations anyway as it was too slow and drivers could not travel with trucks. Drivers had to either fly between the two islands or have dedicated drivers on either side of the strait, he said.

In the wake of the latest Kaiarahi cancellations, Roy said freight demand was being managed by optimising capacity on other Interislander ferries.

“Our staff are working as hard as they can to accommodate all our affected customers.”

Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist.

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