8 Mar 2021

Bigger Cook Strait ferries risk collision and grounding: report

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 8 March 2021
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Photo: www.pictonferryprecinct.co.nz

A report into maritime safety in Tory Channel suggests KiwiRail's proposed bigger interisland ferries may carry a heightened risk of grounding and collision which could result in catastrophic loss of life or an oil spill.

Kiwirail plans to have two new ships in operation by 2024, which would be nearly 40 metres longer and at least five metres wider than the current ships.

The Marlborough District Council commissioned an assessment of navigational safety and risk in Tory Channel -  the narrow waterway used by ferry operators between Wellington and Picton.

That report identifies 67 risks, including grounding, collision, limited tug availability and the need for better aids to navigation.

The risks are pre-existing, but the report says `the introduction of new, larger ferries with new handling characteristics and greater capacity for passengers and crew, brings new challenges.''

KiwiRail's own risk report finds there is no additional risk in Tory Channel associated with larger ferries. 

Kathryn speaks with Marlborough Harbourmaster, Luke Grogan, who is leading a risk assessment group considering the issues. Also with Paul Keating,  chairperson of residents' group Guardians of the Sounds.