Backup ferry nearly ready

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:50 07/01/2014

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KiwiRail's leased ferry Stena Alegra will be back in Picton to do trials and could be carrying freight across Cook Strait as early as tomorrow night.

Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said the ship would be doing berthing trials in Picton today, using both Interislander's berths and Waitohi Wharf to make sure the ship's masters were familiar with them.

They would do the same trials in Wellington on tomorrow and, if all went well, the ship could do its first freight-only run as early as tomorrow night.

Stena Alegra and its crew were audited at the weekend, Mr Davis said, and Maritime New Zealand issued an interim safety management certificate, which meant the ship could operate as a ferry.

"It's the tick in the box we need to commence services."

The firm intended to start passenger services before the weekend, if all went well with the tests and the freight-only sailing, he said.

Stena Alegra made its first visit to Picton last week.

KiwiRail leased Stena Alegra for about six months after its ferry Aratere broke a driveshaft and lost its starboard propeller about 3 kilometres outside Tory Channel during an evening sailing to Wellington on November 5.

Aratere did some freight-only sailings on one propeller before Christmas but has been mostly tied up at the wharf in Wellington.

It is due to go to a drydock in Asia later this month to have the driveshaft replaced and the propeller re-attached.

Mr Davis said that, while there was not a lot of capacity on the ships during the peak summer sailings, space could free up suddenly as freight bookings were finalised.

That meant that 24 hours or 12 hours before ships were to sail, bookings could open up for people wanting to travel, even if they had been full earlier.

"People who want to travel should look at our website, but don't give up if it's full at first."

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- The Marlborough Express

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