THE FERRY Kaitaki lost power during a crossing of New Zealand’s Cook Strait at about 1700 local time on Saturday (28 January).

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission opened an inquiry into the incident.

Chief investigator of accidents Naveen Kozhuppakalam the reported circumstances were that Kaitaki was en-route from Picton to Wellington with about 800 passengers and 80 crew on board.

“At about 5pm, the vessel was in the Cook Strait off Wellington’s South Coast when it suffered a main engine failure and loss of propulsion,” he said.

“The vessel dropped anchor and onboard engineers began repair work. Power was restored about two hours later. The vessel, escorted by two tugs, proceeded to Wellington without further incident.”

Mr Kozhuppakalam has appointed a team of investigators with expert knowledge of marine operations, engineering and maintenance.

Their initial investigation work will be to interview the ship’s crew, incident responders, Wellington harbour authorities, and other witnesses. The commission will also inspect the ship and obtain all relevant records and electronic recorded data.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission is a standing Commission of Inquiry. It opens an inquiry when it believes the circumstances of an accident or incident have – or are likely to have – significant implications for transport safety, or when the inquiry may allow the Commission to make findings or recommendations to improve transport safety.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand said the engine failure of Kaitaki is concerning for crew aboard the ship.

In a statement, the union said the ship drifted in high winds off the south coast of Wellington after losing engine power, before moving into shallower water where its anchors could catch.

MUNZ national secretary Craig Harrison said finding out the cause of the failure is a priority.

He said the actions of the captain and crew of Kaitaki were commendable in managing the situation.

“As noted by transport minister Michael Wood, the failure of previous governments to invest in upgrading our interisland ferries has led to an ageing fleet where this kind of problem occurs,” he said.

MUNZ Wellington Branch secretary Jim King said while concerning for passengers, crew are well trained for such events and acted in a professional manner.

Sailings of Kaitaki for today (30 January) have been cancelled, according to the Interislander website.

TAIC is appealing for ferry passengers and residents of Wellington’s South Coast who have videos or photographs of the events to contact the commission at