Ferry incidents 'covered up' - Peters

Last updated 14:39 12/05/2014
STENA ALEGRA: The replacement ferry lost part of its propeller.

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The Interislander's boss has rejected accusations by NZ First leader Winston Peters that Kiwirail covered up three"serious incidents" involving the problem-plagued Cook Strait ferries in the past week - but has not denied two are being investigated.

In a statement today Interislander general manager Thomas Davis released figures showing reported incidents and near misses involving the ferry in response to Peters' allegations that serious issues were being hidden.

Davis insisted there was ''no cover up'' in response to Peters' claims today that early last week, the Arahura was involved in a near-miss with the Kaitaki at Picton, and that he understood an officer was taken off Arahura for drug testing.

Peters said that in another alleged incident yesterday, the skipper on the Arahura turned in the opposite direction to which he was told as the ship left Wellington, resulting in another near-collision.

"An inquiry is being conducted into this incident but KiwiRail does not seem to think the public has a right to know about the shambles it is running," he said.

Davis has issued a statement today saying safety is a top priority for the Interislander and that an incident being reported did not necessarily mean it had occurred.

"Investigations need to be undertaken to prove or disprove an allegation. The incidents Mr Peters' alleges have been subject to normal investigation protocols and a full safety investigation has begun, including the opportunity for all parties to share incident details to establish if further action is required,'' Davis said.

In response to Peters' claim an officer required drug testing Davis said staff allegedly involved were stood down and undertook drug and alcohol testing as part of standard procedure.

Maritime New Zealand has confirmed it is looking at two further incidents of near-misses involving Cook Strait ferries but said it cannot comment on the details.

Peters had also claimed the most recent propeller damage to the Stena Alegra was sustained when the ship hit a wharf in Picton.
KiwiRail confirmed last week the ferry had lost part of the blade of one of its propellers, resulting in the cancellation of a number of sailings.

It was the third time the Stena Alegra, a replacement for the Aratere which is undergoing major repairs in Singapore, has been out of action in the past month.

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KiwiRail "seems to be operating from the script of a television comedy and it is clear the company cannot be allowed to continue to operate in such a potentially dangerous fashion", Peters said.

But Davis called Peters' claim that damage to the propeller was because of the ferry hitting a wharf in Picton ''quite simply, wrong".
A spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee had earlier confirmed the incident in Picton, saying the minister was made aware on Friday.

The minister would receive a briefing from KiwiRail on the other allegations this afternoon.

Interislander near misses at sea

The Interislander Ferry's management has hit back at claims of a cover up by releasing figures showing reported incidents and near misses involving the ferry.

Maritime New Zealand received 68 reported incidents of all types between January 2011 to December 2013 involving all ferry companies crossing the Cook Strait.

Of these, 15 were reported as near miss, or close quarters incidents.

The The Interislander itself was involved in 36 reported incidents, and 10 near misses.

The Interislander sailed 4600 of the annual 7200 Cook Strait crossing by all ferry companies which affected its performance figures, Davis said.

The ferry performed 60 per cent of all ferry crossings and was involved in less than 50 per cent of reported incidents, according to the figures released by Interislander management.

''On that basis Interislander performance is relatively lower on an average crossings basis compared with all other shipping companies, but as always we always look at ways to continue to improve our performance,'' Davis said.

- Stuff


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