Repaired Aratere on way back to NZ

03:18, Jun 15 2014
RETURNING: Repaired Interislander ferry Aratere is on its way back to NZ.

KiwiRail's inter island ferry Aratere has left Singapore, on its way home after a refit, the company says.

Marine tracking system AIS showed the ship had cleared the Singapore Straits and was showing its destination as Gladstone in Australia, via the Torres Strait.

Maritime sources said it was expected to arrive in Gladstone about June 26, so could be back in New Zealand by June 30.

In a statement this morning, KiwiRail confirmed the ferry's departure from Singapore for Gladstone. The return sailing usually takes about two weeks but KiwiRail said the arrival date was weather dependent and it would update when the ship was nearer New Zealand.

On arrival Aratere would undergo final commissioning tests and would initially sail a limited, freight-only service.

Aratere has been in Singapore since February, and on limited service since November last year when a propeller was lost after a driveshaft snapped just outside Tory Channel during an evening sailing from Picton to Wellington. 

As well as having the driveshafts and propellers replaced in dry dock in Singapore, the ship has also had a full two-year maintenance overhaul, including replacement of steering gear, gearboxes, motors and stabilisers, Kiwirail says.

During rigorous sea trials in the past fortnight, commissioning issues with the steering gear were found, which led to delays. Kiwirail said these had been successfully rectified by the manufacturer's service representative. Maritime sources said three Rolls Royce staff had been working hard on the ship round the clock since the sea trials.

KiwiRail's former chief executive Jim Quinn said the ship's propeller loss might have cost the company $30 million, including the lease of a replacement ship Stena Alegra.