Aratere stand-in crosses the Strait

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 12:18 01/01/2014
Stena Alegra
Justin Devine

The Stena Alegra berthed in Picton last night before sailing back to Wellington

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The European crew manning the leased ferry Stena Alegra had a good trial crossing of Cook Strait and took lots of photographs as they travelled through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton, Interislander says.

KiwiRail's leased ferry Stena Alegra made its first trip to Picton on Monday night and the ship tested the fit of its berth in the port, as well as adjusting its compass in the northern entrance of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Interislander, the Cook Strait ferry operator owned by KiwiRail, has leased the ferry for about six months until the propeller is replaced on the ferry Aratere.

The Aratere snapped its starboard driveshaft and lost the propeller about 4km outside Tory Channel during an evening sailing from Picton to Wellington on November 5. It was out of service for more than a month before doing some freight-only sailings with one prop before Christmas.

It is expected to leave for an Asian drydock later this month.

British-registered Stena Alegra arrived in Wellington on Sunday after a month-long journey from Poland, via the Panama Canal.

Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said Stena Alegra's first trip across Cook Strait was pleasant with fair weather, and all systems had worked well.

It went through the northern entrance of Queen Charlotte Sound because that was a good area for the ship to adjust its magnetic compass to cope with moving from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere.

The ship berthed in Picton and left through Tory Channel about 10pm.

There were no speed issues through the Sounds, Mr Davis said.

"With the ship being new [on the run], we are restricted to 15 knots until certification which, of course, makes the trip longer.

"We are ensuring all crew are fully familiarised with the ship and its systems, and once we are satisfied, regulators will come in to audit and issue the necessary certification."

Marlborough harbourmaster Alex van Wijngaarden said Stena Alegra had to comply with the district plan, which set out speed requirements for shipping in the Sounds.

"There is no application for a resource consent, so the speed would be 18 knots."

Captain van Wijngaarden said Stena Alegra had carried out berthing trials in Picton on Monday night and he understood there were no problems.

Mr Davis said it was likely the ship would do some freight-only runs first before taking passengers.

The ship doesn't fit passenger gangways in Picton and Wellington and Interislander staff were still working on solutions so foot passengers could board the ferry, Mr Davis said.

However, both Kaitaki and Arahura were managing to meet demand for the foot passengers.

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- The Marlborough Express

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