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How The Grounded Aratere Unfolded, A Timeline

Interislander’s Aratere ferry ran aground just after 9.45pm on Friday following what was said to be a steering failure.

It follows a series of issues for KiwiRail, including an incident in January 2023 when the Kaitaki lost power with 864 people on board.

In an email sent to commercial operators, it was confirmed the grounded Aratere ferry recently underwent an upgrade to its steering system.

In December last year, the Government axed a billion dollar infrastructure project which included new ferries, citing a cost blow out.

Here’s the breakdown of how things unfolded for the Aratere:

Friday, 9.45pm: The ferry leaves Picton and runs aground approximately 2.8km north, following what was thought to be a steering failure.

Interislander general manager Duncan Roy said the freight-only sailing had 47 people on board, and had departed from Picton. Of those, eight were commercial vehicle drivers, and 39 were crew.

No-one was injured, Roy said.

The Aratere spend the night aground, and all passengers and crew stayed on board. One ambulance was sent as a precaution.

12.20am: Maritime NZ confirms in a statement the harbourmaster was on board the ferry and the vessel would be refloated as tidal conditions allowed.

“There is also no water ingress (entering the vessel) and no oil going into the marine environment.”

Maritime NZ said it would be investigating the cause.

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Saturday, 7am: Hans Versteegh, Marlborough District Council environmental science and policy group manager, said it was unclear if the ship could be relocated at high tide but an assessment would be made at first light.

High tide was just after 9am.

8am: Interislander executive general manager Duncan Roy confirms plans to refloat the ferry just after 9am.

Roy said KiwiRail was working closely with Port Marlborough, the harbourmaster and the relevant authorities.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission said it would be investigating the Aratere grounding.

9am: Two tugs were on site near the Aratere, however the plan to attempt a refloat was put on hold to allow for more time to investigate the hull.

In a statement, Roy said more time was needed to prepare the ship.

Marlborough mayor Nadine Taylor said divers would get a better look at the ship in daylight.

10.30am: Simeon Brown, Minister of Transport, confirms on X (formerly Twitter) he flew to Wellington on Saturday morning to be briefed by officials. He said he would be heading to Picton shortly.

The Government was working with an expert Ministerial Advisory Group who were recommending options for replacing the ferries, Brown said.

The work was progressing “with urgency” and ministers would take recommendations to cabinet, he said.

11am: The eight passengers and 12 of the crew arrived back in Picton after disembarking the grounded ferry.

A truck driver, Cam, who did not give his last name, told a Stuff reporter the crew had been fantastic and it was “as gentle as could be" when the vessel hit the ground.

12.15pm: KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy and Interislander executive general manager Duncan Roy hold a media stand up in Picton.

All crew had disembarked safely and have been replaced with “fresh” crew.

It was confirmed the next attempt to refloat the ship would be at hightide at 9pm on Saturday night.

Both men refused to speculate on the causes of the incident or what needed to change.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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