Propeller setback for replacement ferry

STENA ALEGRA: The replacement ferry has lost part of its propeller.
STENA ALEGRA: The replacement ferry has lost part of its propeller.

Winston Peters has repeated calls for ministerial involvement after the replacement ferry for the crippled Aratere itself suffered a propeller problem.

Maritime sources told The Dominion Post last night that about "one metre" of a propeller blade was missing from the Stena Alegra when it returned to port in Wellington yesterday afternoon.

All sailings of Stena Alegra had been cancelled for the day.

Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said in a statement last night that divers were sent down to look at the propeller.

"Part of one of the ship's four propeller blades on one propeller was missing. The ship has two propellers," Davis said.

It was not certain just how serious the issue was but investigations were continuing. "At no time were passengers and crew at any risk."

Discussions were expected to be held today, involving representatives of Interislander and the ship’s owners to decide how repairs to the damaged propeller might be carried out.

A maritime source said there would be no quick fix to the problem and it appeared "a new blade might have to be bolted on to the propeller".

Davis suggested another alternative could be to crop the opposite blade to balance the prop. This was a faster and simpler temporary repair method when prop ‘tips’ were damaged, he said.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters today weighed in, saying the Government was deliberately running down KiwiRail so it could once again be privatised "for peanuts".

He said Stena Alegra was a dud ship which had replaced another dud ship, the Aratere and Interislander’s problems had been caused by KiwiRail management not having a clue about ships or shipping.

“The Government knows this and is doing nothing about it so it can again sell off KiwiRail to its mates just like it did in the nineties at a huge cost to taxpayers,’ Peters said.

"We repeat our call for the Minister to step in and appoint some experienced and competent people to run KiwiRail’s ferry service before there is a tragedy on Cook Strait,” Peters said.

Stena Alegra has been plagued with problems since the charter vessel replaced Aratere, currently in Singapore awaiting an unscheduled second dry docking to resolve propeller shaft and rudder problems, on the Cook Strait run in January.

Early last month it suffered a six-metre gash when it hit a Wellington wharf and was out of action for a week.

The replacement ferry's latest problem coincides with repair work delays being encountered by the crippled Aratere in Singapore.

Aratere was originally scheduled to be back on the Cook Strait run earlier this month, after repairs to the broken propeller shaft, but unexpected cracks were found in its rudder stocks, which both now need to be replaced.

The Dominion Post