Troubled ferry moored again

23:35, Jan 21 2013
The 6.30 sailing of the Aratere was cancelled this morning after issues with the ship's electronics.

Troubled Cook Strait Interislander ferry Aratere has broken down in Wellington Harbour again, this time with a computer electronics problem.

The ferry was scheduled to sail from Wellington to Picton at 6:30 this morning but did not sail after an electronics problem was detected about 1am, when the ship was being moved from the Aotea Quay train link berth to allow the Arahura to unload its cargo of trucks, cars, trains and passengers.

KiwiRail spokeswoman Sophie Lee said Aratere was now berthed on Aotea Quay while technicians worked on the problem.

"There is a problem with the computer electronics which control the propulsion systems on the ship.

"We've brought the technicians in to take a look," she said.

Interislander was hopeful Aratere would be able to re-enter service on the 6.30am sailing from Wellington to Picton tomorrow.


Last Wednesday the troubled ferry also struck its Wellington rail linkspan in high winds which resulted in scheduled services being disrupted.

Interislander was taking no chances with the Aratere this morning when itberthed at a conventional wharf on Aotea Quay. It was escorted to the berth by the CentrePort tug Toia.

Ms Lee said Interislander ferry Kaitaki had changed its sailing schedule today from an 8.30pm departure from Wellington to an 9pm departure.

Kaitaki,the largest of Interislander's three ferries, would depart Picton for Wellington on its return sailing at 2am tomorrow, Ms Lee said.

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

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 plateshave to be strengthened.

June 2000: Liferaft 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. 


The Dominion Post