KiwiRail hopes to soon be in a position to decide on a ship to replace its crippled ferry.
The Aratere has been out of service since losing one of its propellers in Cook Strait on 5 November and won't sail again over the busy summer period.
The State-owned enterprise's board held its monthly meeting on Friday.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said it has narrowed its options to a few ships in Europe and Asia that are capable of taking passengers and roll-on-roll-off freight.
Mr Quinn told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Friday that vessels put on a shortlist will be inspected.
However, he said the one picked won't be service until January at the earliest and the cost of chartering it is not yet known.
KiwiRail is asking the Government to help pay some of the costs of replacing the Aratere, though it does not yet know what went wrong with the ferry or how much money is needed.
Peters calls for independent inquiry
New Zealand First's leader says taxpayers will have to pay for costs incurred since the Aratere was lengthened by 30 metres at a cost of $50 million in 2011.
Winston Peters is demanding an independent inquiry into the loss of the propeller and what he says is a blowout of costs and shambolic management.
"There were fuel problems as far back as 2011 - the doors were not closing properly, the ship was bending while certain rail wagons were loaded and the electronic fuel gauges are not working.
"It is taking less cargo now than it did before the lengthening ... this is going to cost $150 million of taxpayers' money at least."
Mr Peters said KiwiRail staff warned against the extension to the Aratere, but their advice was ignored.