One-propeller sailings up to insurers
Maritime regulators are waiting to hear from Interislander's insurers as to whether operating the troubled ferry Aratere on one propeller is a possibility.
Aratere has been out of service since November 5 when it broke a driveshaft and lost a propeller outside Tory Channel during an evening sailing from Picton to Wellington.
This is peak demand time for Cook Strait ferries and Interislander is trying to get approval to operate its ferry with one propeller.
Marlborough harbourmaster Alex van Wijngaarden said he had a "useful and productive" meeting with Interislander representatives yesterday morning.
They agreed that if Interislander did get approval to operate Aratere on one propeller for freight-only services, it would operate through the wider Northern Entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound rather than Tory Channel.
The ship would not be able to berth in Picton if the wind was more than 20 knots, and a tug would be positioned at Dieffenbach Point and the entrance to Picton harbour.
"In other areas of the Sounds, there is a lot of room for the ship to anchor, if needed. And then the tug can go and assist them."
Captain van Wijngaarden said the company needed the approval of classification society Det Norske Veritas before it would apply to Maritime New Zealand for permission to return Aratere to service.
He did not know when that would be, but other sources said the decision was "pending".
Det Norske Veritas is a global ship and offshore certification society, based out of Norway, which assess the seaworthiness of vessels for regulatory agencies and insurance companies.
Meanwhile, KiwiRail said it was likely to send staff to Panama to meet the ship it has leased to fill in for Aratere from mid-January.
Stena Alegra's European crew were bringing it to New Zealand, but some Interislander staff would join it along the way to familiarise themselves with how it operated before it got here, a KiwiRail spokeswoman said.
The ship could take 325 cars or 78 trucks, but was likely to take a mix on most sailings, she said.
Interislander has re-opened bookings for cars and camper vans for both Kaitaki and Stena Alegra from January 12 to March 31 next year.
Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said the extra capacity the new ship provided would go a long way to alleviating the capacity constraint for all traffic across Cook Strait.
"Unfortunately Stena Alegra won't be able to initially take foot passengers as the vessel isn't compatible with the passenger gangways at the terminals."
Interislander was working on this, but Mr Davis said both the Kaitaki and Arahura had plenty of capacity for foot passengers, including space for new foot passenger bookings on at least one sailing on every date over the Christmas/New Year period.
- The Marlborough Express