More Cook Strait crossings cancelled

STENA ALEGRA: The replacement ferry has lost part of its propeller.
STENA ALEGRA: The replacement ferry has lost part of its propeller.

Interislander's temporary ferry Stena Alegra will not sail until early next week as its propeller problems continue.

Sailings were cancelled today, after a propeller was damaged during a crossing on Thursday. Operator Kiwirail said a temporary fix would be made over the weekend, removing a propeller tip on the opposite blade to the damaged one.

The ship would then be tested for seaworthiness, and could by back in operation early next week, Kiwirail spokeswoman Kimberley Brady said.

Meanwhile, passengers booked on Stena Alegra sailings will be transferred to other crossings, she said.

Extra sailings on the Kaitaki were also planned. "Safety is Interislander's top priority," Brady said.

Maritime sources told Fairfax Media on Thursday that about "one metre" of a propeller blade was missing from the Stena Alegra when it returned to port in Wellington that afternoon. 

The evening sailing that day was cancelled, as were all sailings yesterday.

A permanent fix was three months away, after the Stena Alegra vessel had completed its charter with Interislander.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters weighed in, saying the Government was deliberately running down KiwiRail so it could once again be privatised "for peanuts".

He said Stena Alegra was a dud ship which had replaced another dud ship, the Aratere and Interislander's problems had been caused by KiwiRail management not having a clue about ships or shipping.

"The Government knows this and is doing nothing about it so it can again sell off KiwiRail to its mates just like it did in the 90s at a huge cost to taxpayers," Peters said.

"We repeat our call for the Minister to step in and appoint some experienced and competent people to run KiwiRail's ferry service before there is a tragedy on Cook Strait."

Stena Alegra has been plagued with problems since the charter vessel replaced Aratere, currently in Singapore awaiting an unscheduled second dry docking to resolve propeller shaft and rudder problems which occurred on the Cook Strait run in January.

Early last month Stena Alegra suffered a six-metre gash when it hit a Wellington wharf and was out of action for a week.

Aratere was originally scheduled to be back on the Cook Strait run earlier this month, after repairs to the broken propeller shaft, but unexpected cracks were found in its rudder stocks, which both now need to be replaced.

The replacement ferry's latest problem coincides with repair work delays being encountered by the crippled Aratere in Singapore.

The Dominion Post