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Aratere ferry to get a nose job and new mid-section

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Sept 16 NZPA - State-owned KiwiRail is spending $42.3 million on a nose job and lengthening of the Aratere ferry to increase its capacity and improve its efficiency ahead of the rugby World Cup next year.

The investment comes in the same week private sector rival Bluebridge said it is buying a ferry, currently operating in Denmark, to replace the Monte Stello, to increase its capacity ahead of the rugby tournament.

KiwiRail had earlier signalled the "jumboisation", which involves cutting the ferry in two and fitting a new pre-fabricated section, as a top priority.

Today it said the new section will be 29.25m. The diesel electric power plant will also be enhanced and a streamlined bow section added, improving efficiency and carbon footprint, while smoothing the journey. The new bow adds a further 4.3m.

The work increases the vehicle capacity by 30 percent, rail capacity by 27 percent and passenger capacity to 600 from 360.

"The lengthened hull and new bow design will also significantly reduce Aratere's wake profile," said Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis.

"Modelling indicates that we can cut the wash by around 25 percent in the environmentally sensitive area of the Marlborough Sounds."

Project costs of $42.3m, comprise a shipyard contract of $32m, power upgrade of $3m, other ship improvements of $2.2m, project, design, delivery and other costs of $5m.

On Monday, Sembcorp Marine's Sembawang Shipyard said it secured the contract and the vessel is expected in the shipyard in March.

The Aratere is scheduled to return at the end of August 2011.

The state-owned ferries have traditionally had rails on their decks so rail wagons can be shunted on and off. The Spanish-built Aratere was the last rail capable roll-on roll-off ferry introduced to the Cook Strait but was dubbed El Lemon after being investigated 43 times.

The Bluebridge ferries take vehicles and passengers but are not rail capable.

KiwiRail has argued its ferries are part of the national rail network and have to be rail capable to preserve that network.

Its Interislander business operates three ferries, only one of which-- the 25-year-old Arahura -- is still owned. The Arahura is rail capable but the Kaitaki, which was introduced by Toll Holdings is not. The Aratere and Kaitaki are leased.

The Arahura is now capable of carrying 539 passengers, down from around a 1000 when it was delivered in the early 1980s. The Kaitaki can carry 1650 passengers.

The company is expected to next year start examining options for replacing the Arahura by 2015 or 2016. These include buying a new ferry or leasing an existing ferry and making it rail capable.

The ferries are losing foot passengers to airlines offering cheap fares and passengers are increasingly travelling in larger cars with bikes on the back and camper vans, which take more space.

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