The Interislander ferry KAITAKI enroute from Wellington naar Picton NZ Photo : Daniel van der Noordt (c)

The Maritime Union is calling for the investigation into the engine failure of an Interislander ferry to be prioritised - but the agency investigating it says it is at least 18 months away from any conclusions.

The KAITAKI ferry lost its power around 5pm on Saturday with around 800 passengers and 80 crew on board. It eventually got power back and made a slow journey to Wellington, where it arrived after 9pm, followed by tug boats for precaution.

Maritime Union national secretary Craig Harrison commended the crew and captain for their management of the situation – and said an investigation into the cause should be a top priority. “As noted by Transport Minister Michael Wood, the failure of previous Governments to invest in upgrading our interisland ferries has led to an ageing fleet where this kind of problem occurs.”

However Simon Pleasant, the communications advisor for the Transport Accident Investigations Commissions, told NZME there will be a wait before the cause of the power loss can be identified. “The commission is a standing commission of inquiry. There are quite a lot of processes involved things like hearings and consultation with the sector – that in itself takes about nine months and that’s if you aren’t doing any investigation at all. “Marine investigations are taking around 18 months on average.”Pleasant said the investigation will look at things like the vessel data recorder, the voice recorder on the bridge of the ship and that interviews will speak to everyone involved.TAIC opens this type of inquiry when it believes the circumstances of an accident or incident have - or are likely to have - significant implications for transport safety, or when the inquiry may allow the commission to make findings or recommendations to improve transport safety.

Source : NZHerald