Replacement Cook Strait ferry damaged

TIM DONOGHUE, TOM HUNT AND MATT STEWART
Last updated 11:45 09/04/2014
Stena alegra

FERRY TROUBLES: A gash of about five metres can be seen along the port side of the Stena Alegra, above the water line. Workers can be seen using a gas torch to repair the gash.

Stena Alegra
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ
ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN: Freight trucks exit the Stena Alegra ferry.

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Winston Peters wants KiwiRail's bosses sacked amid claims stricken Cook Strait ferry Stena Alegra is sucking up about twenty times as much oil as other ferries.

"Stena Alegra is using a huge amount of oil lubricant. It is under constant repair and it cannot take rail freight,'' Peters said in a statement.

The NZ First leader told Parliament today that the high lubricant usage showed there were serious engine issues with the ferry, which is a replacement for the under repair Aratere.

The Stena Alegra is out of service today after hitting a wharf in Wellington yesterday and is tied up at Wellington wharf, where a gash of about six metres can be seen in its hull above the waterline.

Workers can be seen using a gas torch to repair the gash.

The accident happened about 1pm yesterday as the chartered ferry was berthing after a voyage from Picton.

All passengers and cargo were taken off before the ship was sailed to Aotea Quay for a detailed damage assessment.

A spokeswoman said the accident, while berthing at Wellington, happened in ''the midst of extreme weather conditions''.

Repair work would take four to five days and all Stena Alegra sailings until Sunday had been cancelled.

All other ferries were running to schedule.

This is despite the Interislander website appearing to say all services on all sailings today - bar one - were suspended.

A spokeswoman said while bookings were suspended, sailings were not.

The vessel has been plagued with problems since it was put in to service last year as a replacement for the Aratere, which is in Singapore for repairs after a propeller fell off and cracks were discovered in its rudders.

Peters has called on Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to stop KiwiRail running an unsafe ferry operation.

"The KiwiRail Cook Strait ferry service is an absolute shambles yet the Government allows this incompetence to continue, creating a clear and present threat to passengers and other ships on a very dangerous piece of water.

"Arahura is the only ferry left that can take rail freight and if anything happens to this ship, KiwiRail might as well pack in the ferry service and hand it to someone who knows what they are doing."

Peters said it was inconceivable that Brownlee had not been briefed on the situation.

"The Government has a responsibility to the public and to taxpayers. It's time to sack the board and management at KiwiRail and to bring in experts to sort out the mess," Peters said.

Stena Alegra has been on the Cook Strait run since February, as the replacement for the crippled Aratere, which is still in dry dock in Singapore after losing a propeller in Cook Strait in November.

Earlier this week, in response to questions from the Dominion Post, Interislander general manager Thomas Davis confirmed cracks to both rudders had also been discovered during Aratere's dry docking in Singapore.

Aratere was on the verge of being returned to the water for sea trials this week with two new propeller shafts and refurbished stabilisers, after one propeller shaft snapped in Cook Strait on a routine sailing from Picton to Wellington on November 5.

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Davis said Aratere's rudder problem was discovered when Aratere's two rudders were being replaced on the ship.

Commenting on Aratere's rudder problem on Monday, Davis said Stena Alegra would continue on the Cook Strait run as the replacement charter ship for Aratere.

- The Dominion Post

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