KiwiRail has rejected a suggestion from NZ First leader Winston Peters that troubled Interislander ferry Aratere has blown an engine while en route to Australia following its two dry dockings at the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore.
Peters called on Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to immediately explain what had happened to the ferry on its return journey to Wellington, via a scheduled fuel stop in the Australian port of Gladstone after its 14 weeks of refurbishment in Singapore.
"We call on the Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to immediately explain what is happening with the ferry and to explain why this problem has followed a supposed repair job in Singapore.
"He should clarify the reports immediately. Mr Brownlee has presided over this shambles for far too long," Peters said in a statement.
Commenting on Peters' statement Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said one engine was out of action due to mechanical issues unrelated to the Singapore dry docking.
"This will be addressed once she is back in New Zealand. The engine has not 'blown up', rather it was the sort of fault that does occur from time to time in any vessel,'' Davis said.
He said Aratere had significant engine redundancy and this had been installed as part of the extension work.
''She has six engines, and generally operates on a maximum of four, which she is doing at present, so a fault in one any engine has no impact on her speed or performance in any way,' Davis said.
Aratere is steaming towards Gladstone for refuelling.
''The Gladstone bunker is unavailable from 23 to 26 June for maintenance - this was always known. The late departure from Singapore because of more extensive trials and fault-fixing has meant the bunkering will take place on June 27."
Aratere is now expected back in New Zealand in early July, two months later than former KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn predicted when the ship left Wellington in early February.
Aratere's starboard propeller shaft snapped in Cook Strait on a routine sailing from Picton to Wellington on November 5.
Aratere's replacement ferry, the Swedish owned Stena Alegra will end its six-month charter with Interislander at the end of this month.
- The Dominion Post