Troubled ferry moored again

04:51, Jan 22 2013
The 6.30 sailing of the Aratere was cancelled this morning after issues with the ship's electronics.

Troubled times continue for the Cook Strait Interislander ferry Aratere. 

After breaking down in Wellington Harbour with a computer electronics problem early this morning the ferry operators were hopeful of it returning to service for the 6.30am sailing from Wellington to Picton tomorrow.

But Interislander spokeswoman Sophie Lee said tonight Aratere's 6.30am service tomorrow had now been cancelled. 

She confirmed work would continue overnight on the problem and a decision on when the ferry might re-enter service would be made at 9am tomorrow. 

"Affected passengers and freight booked on the Aratere's cancelled 6:30am sailing from Wellington to Picton will be transferred to the 8:25am sailing of Kaitaki," Miss Lee said.

She said Aratere had berthed on Aotea Quay so technicians could work on the problem.

"There is a problem with the computer electronics which control the propulsion systems on the ship.

Last Wednesday the troubled ferry also struck its Wellington rail linkspan in high winds which resulted in scheduled services being disrupted.

Interislander was taking no chances with the Aratere this morning when it berthed at a conventional wharf on Aotea Quay. It was escorted to the berth by the CentrePort tug Toia.

Aratere incurred multiple mechanical problems when it returned from the Sembawang dock in Singapore after its hull was lengthened in 2011 as part of a major $53.8 million refurbishment.

Aratere's 13-year history sailing Cook Strait has been a troubled one.

December 1998: The $106 million Spanish-built ferry had so many problems after entering service in 1999 that the crew nicknamed it "El Lemon". Problems first arose on the delivery voyage from Spain in December 1998 when the vessel experienced several minor technical problems.

February 1999: Power failure leaves the Aratere languishing in Wellington Harbour.

May 1999: Electrical failure cuts power to engines and brings ship to a virtual standstill.

September 1999: Smoke in engine room sends 250 passengers and 40 crew scurrying to emergency stations.


November 1999: Bow plateshave to be strengthened.

June 2000: Liferaft falls from the Aratere while docked in Wellington.

December 2000: Aratere blows an engine piston, causing delays for several weeks.

July 2003: Aratere crashes in to a rail ramp while docking in Wellington.

July 2004: Passengers on Aratere had a nightmare eight-hour journey from Picton to Wellington after the ship broke down in mountainous seas.

April 2005: Aratere, on a late-night freight sailing, is involved in a near miss with chemical tanker Bow De Jin off Eastbourne in Wellington Harbour.

July 2006: Aratere rams the trawler San Domenico in high winds while berthing in Wellington Harbour.

February 2009: More than 100 passengers bumped off Aratere sailing after coupling holding a lifeboat fails.

April 2011: Aratere sails for Singapore for major $54 million (approx) refurbishment. Returns behind schedule in September 2011 with Singapore rats on board.

September 2011: MAF Biosecurity prevents Aratere from discharging possibly contaminated ballast water. MAF later relents and allows Interislander to dump the ballast in Cook Strait.

November 2011: Aratere suffers major engine problems, including an engine failure in the middle of Cook Strait. 

Contact Tim Donoghue
General reporter

The Dominion Post