Sunday, December 29, 2013

Arrival of RoRo Ferry Will Help Replace Freight and Passenger Shortfall

Saga of Ill Fated Inter Island Service Continues on a Brighter Note
Shipping News Feature

NEW ZEALAND – The problems facing KiwiRail following the breakdown of the company’s inter-island RoRo ferry in November, when the Aratere shed a propeller sailing between South Island’s Picton and the capital Wellington on North Island, appear to be largely resolved with the arrival of a replacement freight and passenger vessel.

The Stena Alegra, herself grounded a week or so before the Aratere’s incident when blown ashore in the Baltic during a particularly vicious storm, has a chequered past having been renamed at least six times over the past fifteen years before gaining her current identity when bought by Stena for the company’s service between Gdynia in Poland and Sweden’s Karlskrona earlier this year.

The replacement ship has the capacity to carry around 78 trucks along with 350 passengers and will therefore cover most of the shortfall lost by the absence of the Aratere which has continued as a freight only service in the run up to Christmas. The search for the missing propeller, mentioned in our original story, came to fruition after specialised multibeam echosounder sonar equipment and a remote controlled underwater vehicle with cameras were employed to locate it.

The recovery vehicle was adapted to enable the six tonne, NZ$200,000 prop to be snagged by special strops which then enabled it to be hoisted from the 120 metre deep waters adjacent to the Tory Channel in the Cook Strait before being craned aboard another vessel. The Cook Strait service is managed by KiwiRail subsidiary Interislander whose General Manager, Thomas Davis, commented: 

“Chartering the Stena Alegra will ensure that we can better service our freight customers and passengers over the peak summer period and will assist greatly in alleviating our current capacity constraints for freight and passenger vehicles following the loss of one of Aratere’s propellers on 5 November.

“With our existing timetable we [had lost] around 45% of our freight and passenger vehicle capacity. The Stena Alegra will recoup about 35%, leaving a net capacity loss of around 10%, assisting us to minimise disruption and restore certainty around future bookings until the Aratere is back in service." 

Photo: The Stena Alegra arriving in New Zealand