WITH the findings of a NZ government–appointed review panel tasked with recommending Interisland Line vessel replacements still five months away, one of the aging existing ferries is again hampered by problems.

Initially four passenger sailings by the 26-year old Kaiarahi were cancelled today (13 March) but the service disruption will now extend until at least Saturday while KiwiRail-owned Interisland locates a replacement part for a lifeboat re-engagement system. The system is used to reattach the lifeboats onto Kaiarahi after use.

Interislander operations general manager Duncan Roy said the mechanical fault was found during a scheduled asset maintenance survey, and while the safety of the ship was unaffected Kaiarahi sailings had to be restricted to freight only while the replacement part is sourced.

“We apologise for any inconvenience, but safety is our top priority,” Mr Roy said.

The problem comes just after KiwiRail announced it was adding more weekly and monthky maintenance checks, and booking more time in drydock for deep maintenance, following assessments by classification society DNV, which is also advising on possible life-extension work.

“DNV has undertaken assessments of all three ships’ asset condition, and our enterprise approach to asset management systems, processes and capability and its recommendations are now being actioned across the fleet,” KiwiRail said.

The incoming NZ National Party government last December axed the iRex ferry replacement program after expected costs blew out to close to NZ$3 billion, mostly attributable to landside infrastructure.

Last month the government assembled an independent panel to study affordable alternatives to the planned pair of new rail/ro-ro/pax ferries.