Propeller recovered - in spite of shark

Shark takes interest in salvage operation

Last updated 07:11 11/12/2013
Emma Allen
The salvaged propeller from the Aratere is brought back to Picton by barge and lifted by crane out of the water at Waitohi wharf.
The propeller was retrieved from a depth of around 120 metres and about two nautical miles from Tory Channel using strops that were fitted around the blades of the propeller and part of the shaft via a remote controlled underwater vehicle. The propeller was then secured to the stern of the salvage vessel Brandywine and taken to Picton

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The propeller lost in Cook Strait for Interislander ferry Aratere has been recovered.

Seaworks chief executive Steve MacIntyre said there were no problems lifting the propeller from the seabed. It was taken to Picton before being transported back across the strait to Wellington.

"It had its moments, but there were no problems . . . Nothing like this is ever straightforward."

Mr MacIntyre said one of those moments involved having to get the diving contractor from Wellington's Underwater Solutions out of the water fast, when a shark cruising Cook Strait started swimming around him.

Seaworks recovery ship Brandywine came into Picton rather than Wellington because of concerns about the possibility of snagging the power cable between the South and North islands; it runs along the seabed in the same area.

When the final risk analysis was done, they decided Picton was the best option.

Aratere snapped its starboard driveshaft and lost the propeller about 2 nautical miles outside Tory Channel during an evening sailing from Picton to Wellington on November 5. It had been out of service since then, but yesterday carried out its first freight-only sailing on one propeller after a lengthy assessment.

The propeller, which is about 4.5 metres high and weighs around 6 tonnes, would cost about $200,000 to replace, KiwiRail says.

It was found in 123 metres of water a fortnight ago by Seaworks using sonar and a remote operated vehicle with a camera.

About 6pm on Monday night, the Seaworks salvage team used a remote operated vehicle to get a strop round one of the propeller fins as it lay on the seabed.

Yesterday, the vehicle, effectively a small unmanned submarine, put another two strops around the propeller and Brandywine hoisted the propeller up off the seabed around noon. It was secured under the ship, which then travelled to Picton, making about 3 knots up Tory Channel.

The propeller was hoisted out of the water when Brandywine tied up alongside Waitohi wharf in Picton, using a crane on the land. It was tied down on the ship's deck to return to Wellington overnight.

KiwiRail spokeswoman Sophie Lee said that when the propeller arrived in Wellington, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission would take it to a secure facility to be examined by its inspectors and those of KiwiRail. 

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- The Marlborough Express


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