KiwiRail swoops on opportunity to buy NZ's largest ferry

The Kaitaki has proved itself on what can be a challenging route. (File photo)

The Kaitaki has proved itself on what can be a challenging route. (File photo)

KiwiRail has announced its purchase of the Interislander ferry Kaitaki before its lease expires in 2020.

The Kaitaki is the largest domestic passenger ferry operating in New Zealand, and has been leased from Dublin-based Irish Ferries since 2005.

"It has proved itself on what can be a challenging route," KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said on Wednesday.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said there was strong competition for secondhand ferries, and it was best to snap ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said there was strong competition for secondhand ferries, and it was best to snap up Kaitaki before its lease expired. (File photo)

A worldwide shortage of suitable secondhand ferries, and heavy competition for those ships, meant there was no certainty it would be available after its lease expired.

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"The best option was to take up the opportunity to purchase the ferry," Reidy said.

"The Interislander fleet is the extension of SH1 across Cook Strait. Our ships are vital for tourism, and an important piece of the integrated transport network for freight, with road and rail working together to help drive New Zealand's growth.

"Nearly 190,000 people are directly employed in the tourism sector, and ensuring visitors are able to travel between the North Island and the South Island easily makes sure that the benefits – and the jobs – are spread through the country."

STRAIT NUMBERS
* Up to 4000 sailings a year
* Kaitaki can carry up to 1350 passengers, more than the Aratere and the Kaiarahi combined.
* Last financial year KiwiRail's Interislander ferries carried more than 1 million net tonnes of freight
* Consisting of 83,000 commercial vehicles and 800,000 passengers

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