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Harbour Searchers Thanked By Greater Wellington And East By West Ferries

Heartfelt thanks are extended by Greater Wellington and East by West Ferries to all the agencies and individuals involved in today’s search in Wellington Harbour, following an incident involving a harbour ferry.

Police continue to search after the sole passenger on the 6am sailing from Queen’s Wharf was found to be missing as the vessel approached its berth in Days Bay.

Greater Wellington chair Daran Ponter says the regional council’s thoughts and prayers are with the missing passenger and their loved ones.

“The Greater Wellington whanau is deeply saddened by this incident. Our thoughts are with the crew of the 6am sailing and East by West staff as well,” Cr Ponter says.

“We also wish to extend our appreciation to maritime police and all the crews who responded to this emergency and are helping with the search.”

East by West Ferries general manager Mat Jonsson says the ferry crew issued a mayday call and began to search as soon as they became aware the passenger was missing.

“We called in a second harbour ferry to assist with the search, which was joined by other vessels responding to the mayday,” Mr Jonsson says.

“Conditions on the harbour this morning were very still. The main cabin of the vessel involved is fully enclosed, and the top deck has barriers around the passenger area to stop someone accidentally falling overboard.

“We are grateful to NZ Police for the speed with which they took control of the search and the resources they committed. We are assisting police with their enquiries and have decided East by West Ferries will not resume services today.”

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Metlink group manager Samantha Gain says the ferry company’s response to the emergency was exemplary.

“Under extremely difficult circumstances, East by West followed emergency procedures and committed all available resources to the search. Affected crew are receiving support and Metlink stands ready to give our ferry operator any assistance it requires,” Ms Gain says.

Deputy harbour master Patrick Atwood says the search and rescue operation was well co-ordinated.

“The number of crews that joined the search was impressive. It was heartening to see vessels from the Maritime Police Unit, the Coast Guard, Wellington Airport Sea Rescue, the Interislander, Nautilus Pacific plus the WestPac Trust Rescue Helicopter - all taking direction from the rescue co-ordination centre,” Captain Atwood says.

Greater Wellington has notified its mana whenua partners, who are likely to place a rahui on Wellington Harbour at the appropriate time.

“Please comply with the rahui, which will restrict the gathering of kai moana and recreational activities in part of the harbour,” Cr Ponter says.

East by West Ferries will resume normal services on Saturday 25 May.

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