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Aratere Refloat Success

KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy:

At approximately 9pm tonight KiwiRail, supported by a team of global experts and in collaboration with Maritime NZ (MNZ), Port Marlborough New Zealand (PMNZ), and Marlborough District Council Harbour Master, successfully refloated the Interislander’s Aratere from Titoki Bay, where it went aground shortly after leaving Picton last night.

The refloating involved two PMNZ tugs pulling from the stern, with the ship’s own engines used to help propel it into deeper water. The refloat operation was timed to coincide with high tide.

Interislander Executive General Manager Duncan Roy said he was delighted with the result and the successful refloat was the result of meticulous, co-ordination and planning from a full team of experts, and with the great effort of Masters, crews, onshore staff and the support of PMNZ.

“We’re extremely grateful for the help and support of MNZ, PMNZ, the Harbour Master, our people, experts and customers, and authorities on the ground in Picton.

“This afternoon, we drained ballast and, with detailed calculations from Australian stabilisation experts and advice from Maritime New Zealand, we transferred other weight within the ship to raise the bow. PMNZ’s tugs were then able to rock the vessel away from the shore.

“We know this incident is extremely disruptive for our customers and appreciate their patience as we work with them to organise alternative arrangements."

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The ferry will be anchored in Picton Harbour overnight, so she can re-ballast while safely at anchor, and crews can rest. The Aratere crew are onboard and safe.

We need to rebalance the weight of the vessel before it can move into the wharf and have its hull fully examined. Maritime New Zealand, TAIC and KiwiRail are all undertaking investigations. Because safety is paramount, Aratere will not operate until it has been released by Maritime New Zealand. At this stage we cannot give a timeframe for its return to service.

“We are working with urgency to understand what has happened here.

“This is an incredibly unfortunate incident, especially coming after an intensive investment in an enhanced maintenance regime, supported by global asset management peer reviews during 2023 and 2024. Since then, we’ve had a solid run with reliability and on time performance and have generally been pleased with how our ships are performing.”

The eight truck drivers, and staff on the ship at the time it went to ground were safely transferred to port earlier today. There were no injuries and no livestock on the ship.

There will be a stand-up at 9.30am tomorrow morning at the Interislander Terminal to provide further information on the successful recovery operation and next steps.

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