Aratere ferry replacement found in Poland

IRON BRIDGE: The Aratere heads out into Cook Strait from Wellington. It has been forced out of service after losing a propellor.
IRON BRIDGE: The Aratere heads out into Cook Strait from Wellington. It has been forced out of service after losing a propellor.

The Stena Alegra ferry, which was blown aground in ferocious winds in the Baltic Sea last month, will be the temporary replacement for the stricken Cook Strait ferry Aratere.

The 21,000 gross tonne (approx) ferry is expected to be delivered to Wellington for a minimum six-month charter period by a crew supplied by shipowner Stena Finance BV by the end of December.

InterIslander general manager Thomas Davis said the company planned to have the ship (which has stern and bow loading and unloading capacity) operational on Cook Strait by early January.

The London-registered Stena Alegra was undamaged when it ran aground during the St Jude storm which saw winds of up to 194 kmh batter Denmark and Sweden in late October.

Stena Alegra's grounding took place a week before Cook Strait ferry Aratere lost a propeller when its starboard shaft snapped on a routine sailing from Picton to Wellington. 

The Stena Alegra (like Aratere) was built in Spain in the late 1990s and sailed for a period in Turkey and on the Dover to Boulogne car ferry route.

In recent years she was chartered to both P&O Ferries and Stena Line before being laid up in the River Fal at Falmouth, on the coast of Cornwall.

In May Stena Line purchased the Norman Trader, as she was then known, for their Gdynia (Poland) to Karlskrona (Sweden) route. 

She was towed to Gdynia in Poland where she was refitted and renamed the Stena Alegra in June 2013. 

In July she began operating on the Gdynia to Karlskrona route before being driven ashore in the ferocious St Jude storm.

Stena Alegra is configured to carry 350 passengers and is also capable of carrying 78 trucks or 325 cars.

Before Aratere lost its propeller it was capable of carrying 600 passengers, 32 rail wagons and 28 trucks.

Stena Alegra's delivery voyage from Gdynia to Wellington is expected to begin today. 

Davis said chartering Stena Alegra would ensure InterIslander could better service freight and passenger customers over the peak summer period.

''It will assist greatly in alleviating our current capacity constraints for freight and passenger vehicles. ''With our existing timetable we are losing around 45 percent of our freight and passenger vehicle capacity. ''

The Stena Alegra will recoup about 35 percent, leaving a net capacity loss of around 10 percent, assisting us to minimise disruption and restore certainty around future bookings until the Aratere is back in service,'' Davis said.

Meanwhile KiwiRail general manager Jim Quinn told the Dominion Post from Sydney late last night InterIslander was also considering the possibility of seeking approval from maritime authorities to have Aratere operate a single propeller, tug assisted freight only service across Cook Strait prior to Stena Alegra's arrival in Wellington.

Earlier in the week he confirmed Aratere was likely to be dry docked in Singapore for major shaft and propeller repairs. 

Aratere's six-tonne propeller was found in 120 metres of water on the Cook Strait seabed last Saturday about two nautical miles (3.7km) outside Tory Channel.

InterIslander is hopeful the difficult job of salvaging Aratere's severed propeller will be completed by Seaworks in the next fortnight.

The company was still working through issues relating to Stena Alegra's proposed timetable from January 2014.

During her career Stena Alegra operated under many different names, including Dawn Merchant (1998-2005); Europax Appia (2005-2006); Pau Casals (2006-2008); Ave Luebeck (2008-2009); T-Rex (2009-2010); Norman Trader (2010-2013) and Stena Alegra (2013-).

The Dominion Post