9 Apr 2014

Ferry breakdown holds up freight

9:50 pm on 9 April 2014

The breakdown of replacement Interislander ferry Stena Alegra is causing hold ups to freight delivery nationwide.

The Stena Alegra at a new berth on Wednesday.

The Stena Alegra at a new berth on Wednesday. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Stena Alegra, which was brought in from Poland late last year to replace the Aratere, will be out of service until Sunday while its damaged hull is repaired. It was damaged while berthing in a strong southerly in Wellington about 1pm on Tuesday after a crossing from Picton.

Operator KiwiRail said surveyors had assessed the ship and expected repair work to be completed within four or five days. It is the second problem with the ship since it began sailing Cook Strait.

All Stena Alegra sailings until Sunday night had been cancelled and passengers and freight are being transferred to other services.

KiwiRail's new chief executive Peter Reidy told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme 35-knot winds were blowing across Wellington harbour on Tuesday, but there is still no clear picture of exactly what caused the ferry to crash. Mr Reidy said ferry services will return to normal before the Easter break.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said the delays had a widespread impact.

"Your costs go up, there's delays. But it's not just the road transport - we are just the movers of freight, as it were. The whole economy suffers because its goods and inputs are not getting to their destination in a timely manner."

Freight was increasingly delivered as needed and not stored in warehouses, which made the effect of the hold ups worse, Mr Shirley said.

In January this year, the Stena Alegra developed a faulty valve in its cooling system, causing an electrical failure that affected a propeller.

The Stena Alegra replaced the Aratere, which has been out of action after a propeller fell off midway through a crossing from Picton to Wellington on 5 November last year.

The Aratere has been undergoing repairs at a dry dock in Singapore. It was due to relaunch this week but that was delayed when cracks were found in the shafts that turn its rudders.

KiwiRail said it did not know how long it would take to fix the cracks.