Early dry docking on cards for ferry

01:54, May 27 2013

Interislander is looking at dry docking its troubled Cook Strait ferry Aratere in Brisbane sometime this year in order to repair an ongoing problem with the ship's starboard stabiliser.

Earlier this month Aratere encountered radar and starboard stabiliser problems on its Cook Strait run.  

While the radar problem is on target to be fixed by June 4, the stabiliser problem is proving more difficult to rectify.

Interislander's communications manager Kimberley Brady said the Aratere was due to be dry docked next year, but the company was considering moving that forward to this year to repair the faulty stabiliser.

''But a decision hasn't been made yet,'' Ms Brady said.

She also said a fault with the "second radar" (the ship's main radar) was scheduled for repair by June 4. At least one technician had been flown out from Germany to help fix the radar and Aratere has been operating on its back-up radar for the past fortnight.

Ms Brady, who would not say when Aratere might be dry-docked in Brisbane this year, said the ferry could still operate "safely" despite its starboard stabiliser problem.

Aratere is too big to be dry docked at the Devenport dock in Auckland, where its sister rail ferry Arahura undergoes routine dry dock maintenance work.

Stabilisers are utilised to reduce rolling on ships. Maritime sources say having a starboard stabiliser out of commission in heavy seas would make for an uncomfortable voyage for passengers.

Ms Brady said Aratere, which underwent a major refurbishment in Singapore two years ago, was due to be dry docked in Brisbane next year. Last month Aratere broke down off Pt Halswell in Wellington Harbour when part of its engine plant unexpectedly shut down.

In late January, Aratere broke down with a computer problem and missed several crossings. This incident followed hard on the heels of the ferry striking its Wellington linkspan in high January winds. 

Earlier this year Aratere also missed sailings with a lifeboat problem.


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 plates have to be strengthened.

June 2000: Life raft 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.

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

Contact Tim Donoghue
General reporter
Email: tim.donoghue@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @timdonoghuenz


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