July 16, 2024

Maritime Union statement on grounding of Aratere

The Maritime Union says images of the stricken Cook Strait ferry Aratere aground in the Marlborough Sounds are a shocking conclusion to years of warnings about the ageing ferry fleet.

The Aratere ran aground after a steering failure around 10pm last night Friday 21 June at Titoko Bay (Pine Bay), shortly after departing from Picton.

It was a freight-only sailing with eight commercial vehicle drivers and 39 crew on board.    

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Carl Findlay says a number of Maritime Union members are amongst the crew.

He says Maritime Union officials and delegates had been in communication with crew members aboard the Aratere and there were no injuries.

“The ferry crews are experienced professionals and will be doing their jobs even in these extraordinary conditions, but of course we are concerned they have been placed in danger.”

Mr Findlay says it will be a difficult and complex operation refloating the vessel and it was unclear when this would now happen. The Union was going to be briefed by Interislander management later today.

He says if the steering had failed on the Aratere during bad weather, or when the ship was in the Cook Strait, the outcome could have been disastrous.

“The Interislander ferries are at end of life, and there have been repeated incidents, such as the loss of power on the Kaitaki last year.”

Mr Findlay says New Zealand has to have modern, fit for purpose Cook Strait ferries.

He says the Government had made a massive error cancelling the iRex project, which not only threatened the transport network but the safety and wellbeing of crew and passengers.

“If this incident does not shake the Government out of its complacency about the need for investment in new vessels and infrastructure, what will it take?”

Mr Findlay says the implications of the Aratere being out of action are very serious for the transport network, as it is the only rail capable ferry on the Cook Strait.

In addition, other Interislander ferries are currently out of service or due for dry dock.

The Kaiarahi is currently laid up in Picton undergoing maintenance, and the Kaitaki is due to go to Singapore dry dock in late July for scheduled maintenance.

The Aratere was laid up last month and underwent maintenance including on its steering systems. Gearbox issues had also disrupted its schedule and it was awaiting parts from overseas.

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