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The Maritime NZ Detention Notice On The Aratere Is Now Lifted

The ferry has been in Picton, under the notice, since it grounded on 21 June.

Over the last two and a half weeks Maritime NZ has been engaging with KiwiRail on the grounding of the Aratere, seeking information from KiwiRail, its Class society and undertaking an inspection.

"Earlier this week, we inspected the vessel, and observed it undertake several tests while at berth involving systems, processes and equipment. Off the back of these tests we have now lifted the detention notice, but imposed conditions on the operation of the vessel," Maritime NZ Director, Kirstie Hewlett says.

These conditions allow the Aratere to return to service through a graduated and controlled approach that enables further assurance by KiwiRail, any corrective and preventative measures are implemented, and the vessel is operating safely.

Initially, the conditions will allow crew and rail freight only (four return sailings), then trucks and their drivers, followed by a limited passenger service, and then full capacity sailings to be permitted. The full return to service is subject to KiwiRail demonstrating it has implemented its return to service plan, and no further issues have been identified.

The harbourmasters in Wellington and Marlborough have also placed conditions around pilotage for the Aratere’s exit and entry of the two harbours.

In the coming weeks, Maritime NZ Inspectors will also undertake a focused audit on the Interislander fleet. This will look at its processes, procedures, training, risk management as well as looking at how it brings on new equipment and familiarises its personnel.

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"Maritime NZ’s inspections and audits are a reflection of a point in time, and the operator, KiwiRail has the primary responsibility for day to day safe operation of the vessel, and its wider fleet," Ms Hewlett says.

The investigation into the cause of the grounding is separate from the detention notice and audit.

The Maritime NZ investigation is focusing on exploring the broad range of factors that caused the vessel to ground and will take several months.

However; while the cause of the grounding is yet to be formally determined. Maritime NZ’s preliminary enquiries have found that the incident was not due to a crew member leaving the bridge to make a coffee.

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