Saturday, July 13, 2024

Multi-agency effort refloats grounded ferry

Marlborough Mayor, Nadine Taylor, has extended her thanks to all involved in the multi-agency response to refloat the interisland ferry Aratere in Picton Harbour on Friday.

The Aratere was undertaking a freight-only voyage and had approximately 40 people on board at the time of the grounding approximately 1.5 nautical miles (2.8 km) north of Picton in Titoko Bay.

“Thank you to Harbourmaster Jake Oliver and the Nautical and Coastal team, Port Marlborough’s marine team including the pilots and tug operators, our emergency response teams – Marlborough Civil Defence and Emergency Management, FENZ, Police, St John – Maritime New Zealand, KiwiRail, Coastguard and Council’s environmental management team. Well done to you all,” Mayor Taylor said.

“The speed of the response on site on Friday night is to be commended and many stayed throughout the night to assist. Council has particularly appreciated the close working relationship with Port Marlborough as part of the response effort and the use of the two tugs that proved they really could – the Maungatea and Monowai.

“This response was a team effort of professional and capable mariners and emergency responders who have achieved a wonderful outcome. I’d like to thank every single person involved – you are a credit to Picton, Marlborough and New Zealand,” she said.

The vessel was refloated on a high tide after running aground in the inner Picton Harbour north of Bobs Bay on Friday evening. It later docked at Picton Harbour on Saturday.

Council’s Nautical and Coastal team will continue to work with KiwiRail and Port Marlborough alongside Maritime New Zealand on the next steps, Mayor Taylor said.

“Oil spill booms will be placed around the Aratere once docked as a precautionary measure to ensure any environmental risk is mitigated. Once the immediate response is over, Council’s Coastal Scientists will also conduct environmental surveys to assess any impact to the site,” she said.

Thermal drone imagery captured by Skyworks shows the moment Port Marlborough’s tugs Maungatea and Monowai free the grounded Aratere.

Maritime NZ will be investigating the cause of the grounding.

Harbourmaster Captain Jake Oliver said the Aratere was now at anchor and stable.

“This has been a fantastic, coordinated response today between Council’s Nautical and Coastal team and Environmental team, Port Marlborough, Maritime New Zealand, the local Coastguard and KiwiRail. In particular, the efforts from the port’s team and the tug operators tonight to refloat the Aratere have been outstanding,” Captain Oliver said.

The port of Picton was reopened to all vessels following the successful recovery operation.

Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand Interim CEO, Dom Kalasih says the grounding of the Cook Strait ferry Aratere on Friday night demonstrates the urgent need for KiwiRail and the Government to replace the aging Interislander fleet, and ensure adequate maintenance of its existing vessels.

“It’s fortunate that this incident didn’t result in any injuries. We could have been looking at something much more serious. KiwiRail and the Government need to take all practical steps to safeguard passengers and ensure a secure freight connection between the North and South Islands” Mr Kalasih says.

“This is another example of a major failure of a ferry in just over 18 months, after the Kaitaki lost power off Wellington last year. The road freight sector has demonstrated considerable resilience in dealing with ferry disruptions, but we need to see an enduring solution achieved as soon as possible.

“Apart from the threat to people’s lives, these sorts of breakdowns disrupt freight shipments between the islands. Delays can put time sensitive freight at risk and can interfere with truck drivers’ work time compliance (rest time requirements). The Cook Strait is a continuation of SH1 and we just can’t have these sorts of disruptions.

“We need the expert Ministerial Advisory Group tasked with providing independent advice and assurance on the future of KiwiRail’s inter-island ferry service to progress with urgency, and then see a swift response from the Government and KiwiRail.

“The Interislander fleet has had longstanding and persistent maintenance issues, and this is simply the latest, worrying development. We await further updates from KiwiRail and the Government,” he said.

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