Flotsam may have hit ferry

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 09:51 13/05/2014

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Marlborough's harbourmaster believes the damage to an Interislander ferry was done by floating debris in the water, not by hitting a wharf.

Alex van Wijngaarden said yesterday he was investigating an incident involving ferries in Picton. The Express believes that incident was the close-quarters approach between Cook Strait ferries Kaitaki and Arahura.

NZ First leader Winston Peters yesterday accused KiwiRail of "covering up" near-misses, alleging the ferries had nearly collided and that the Stena Alegra's propeller lost a tip when it hit the wharf in Picton.

However, van Wijngaarden said that did not "look like ... a feasible option". "With the Stena Alegra, where the propeller is located, there would be a lot more damage to the ship and a lot more damage to the wharf, if that was how it happened."

He said it had to strike something, but that would be something floating on the surface and drawn into the propeller.

"It was possibly a log, I don't know. I don't have enough information."

It appeared Interislander was "having a few issues at the moment", van Wijngaarden said. There were a range of contributing factors, though. They could not be put down to one cause.

"Being a government-owned enterprise, it's far more open to scrutiny than someone like Strait Shipping, because that is a privately owned company."

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- The Marlborough Express

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