Problems continue to plague KiwiRail's Interislander ferry service, with its replacement ferry, the Stena Alegra, requiring at least four days out-of action for repairs. The Stena Alegra, which began operating in New Zealand only in January, has been left with a nasty gash on its hull after sustaining damage in "extreme weather conditions'' at the Wellington ferry terminal

Initially, only today and yesterday evening's ferry crossings were cancelled, however KiwiRail has since confirmed the damage to the ship required permanent repair work to be undertaken. This would take between four and five days to complete, a company spokeswoman said. All Stena Alegra sailings had been cancelled until Sunday so repairs could be carried out, she said. The ferry's next scheduled sailing is for 8pm on Sunday. This is the second time the Stena Alegra has run into trouble since it began services in January.

Less than a week after it made its first Cook Strait crossing, it broke down after suffering a partial loss of power while leaving Wellington. At the time, one freight-only sailing and one passenger sailing across Cook Strait were cancelled.

Meanwhile, the company's Aratere ferry, which was sidelined after losing its propeller during a Cook Strait crossing in November, is undergoing further repairs, after rudder cracks were discovered. The ship, which is in dry dock in Singapore, has had several repairs, including the reinstallation of new shafts, old propellers and stabilisers, in preparation for sea trials.

"When reinstalling the rudders this week, ongoing checks identified a crack in the ship's port and starboard 'rudder stock' - that is, the shafts which turn the rudders,'' KiwiRail said. The KiwiRail spokeswoman said Interislander's other ferries were still sailing. Passengers and freight companies were being contacted by the company so alternative arrangements could be made, she said.

Source : The New Zealand Herald