Ship sail

Cook Strait ferries under pressure, Interislander reduced to single passenger vessel due to maintenance

Inter Islander's Kaitaki will carry out heavy work on the Cook Strait service in August, with the other two passenger vessels departing for maintenance and repairs.  (File photo)

Scott Hammond / Stuff

Inter Islander’s Kaitaki will carry out heavy work on the Cook Strait service in August, with the other two passenger vessels departing for maintenance and repairs. (File photo)

Cook Strait ferry crossings will be fewer than usual over the next two months, due to maintenance and supply chain delays coinciding with an unexpected increase in demand.

Interislander executive managing director Walter Rushbrook said customers should book in advance and may not get their preferred sailing time, although space remains available for foot passengers.

Tuesday, according to Inter-island booking sitethere were no spaces available for cars going to Picton until August 7. For the week following that date, there were only a handful of reservations still available, but not every day.

Rushbrook said it has adjusted the schedule and will proactively confirm reservations with passengers.

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A single passenger vessel will be in service for most of August and September. Aratere has been in dry dock since July 25 and will remain so until August 9, during which time Kaitaki and Valentine – a cargo-only vessel – will remain in service.

From 16 August to 28 September, Kaitaki would go to drydock in Sydney for essential maintenance, inspections and maritime recertification, and Aratere would take over passenger services.

The Aratere has been in drydock since July 25 and will remain so until August 9.  (File photo)

Scott Hammond/stuff

The Aratere has been in drydock since July 25 and will remain so until August 9. (File photo)

“We had planned to return Kaiarahi to service prior to Kaitaki’s departure, but recently became aware that the US company manufacturing some of the spare parts for its gearbox repairs had experienced delays,” Rushbrook said. His return date was unknown.

Maintenance was generally scheduled during the period of lowest demand on the Cook Strait, both from a cargo and passenger perspective, he said.

However, the company was seeing more bookings than expected from October through Christmas, further tracking pre-Covid 2019 levels.

“We also seem to be getting more and more inquiries from international travel agencies,” Rushbrook said.

Artist's rendering of one of the new Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Interislander ferries that will replace the existing fleet, which is due to arrive in New Zealand in 2025 and 2026. (File photo)

PROVIDED

Artist’s rendering of one of the new Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Interislander ferries that will replace the existing fleet, which is due to arrive in New Zealand in 2025 and 2026. (File photo)

The resilience of the service will be reinforced from 2025 with the arrival of two new hybrid-electric ferries. Work is about to begin on the new Picton terminal.

The purpose-built fleet will ensure a resilient connection between the North and South Islands and enable us to continue to provide reliable service to our customers.

Will Dady, spokesman for fellow Cook Strait ferry operator Bluebridge, said in a statement that there was “very high demand at the moment” for their services as well, but declined to comment on whether they noticed a marked increase over the next couple of months.

No drydock maintenance was scheduled for the Bluebridge vessels this year.