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A preliminary report into the failure aboard Cook Strait ferry the Kaitaki has found the less-than-$1000 rubber component that failed and sent nearly 900 people drifting towards a rocky coast was 18 years old and overdue for replacement.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) is investigating the January failure of the Interislander ferry’s four engines but, with those findings still long away, it on Friday issued a preliminary report in the interests of safety.

The report shows that Interislander replaced all dodgy parts on the Kaitaki after the January mayday on Cook Strait but expressed concern that similar parts remain in operation on other ferries “that do not meet the manufacturer’s guidance and are at increased risk of failure”. This is denied by KiwiRail, which insists it is now working within manufacturer guidelines.Anchors were deployed and a mayday was issued, triggering a large emergency response. Engineers on board managed to start engines and the escorted ship limped into Wellington Harbour.The TAIC report found the root cause of the problem was a rubber expansion joint which ruptured in the cooling system. The part was manufactured in 2005 but installed on the KAITAKI in 2018. It was two months overdue for replacement. The captain and crew of Cook Strait ferry the KAITAKI took charge when the Interislander ship lost power in late-January.

The part manufacturer told TAIC that the part should not be installed if it was older than eight months old and replaced after five years if in a safety critical use.A spokesperson for EagleBurgmann, which makes the components, on Friday confirmed the guidelines and said the parts sold for between $300 and $500. The TAIC report said KiwiRail – which runs the Interislander fleet – had instigated a policy that they could only be stored for four years, then used for a further four years The KAITAKI was ordered to stay in port in the days after the January incident. “This does not comply with the manufacturer’s guidance and does not take into account the date of manufacture,” the report says. TAIC issued a list of recommendations including getting Maritime NZ to alert all vessel operators using the rubber expansion joints that it was “safety critical” to take the parts’ ages into account.

The KAITAKI, with 864 people on board, lost power to all four engines on January 28 and was blown a nautical mile towards the rocky south coast of the North Islands. It also asked Maritime NZ to make sure KiwiRail stuck to manufacturer’s guidelines, and that KiwiRail proved to Maritime NZ it was following them.The component that failed and sent nearly 900 people drifting towards the coast was 18 years old and two months overdue for replacement.“This happened because KiwiRail had not followed the manufacturer's advice; even under KiwiRail’s own system, the [component] was two months overdue for replacement,” chief investigator Naveen Kozhuppakalam said. “Since the incident, KiwiRail has updated its guidance [...] but it still doesn’t comply with the manufacturer’s guidance and doesn’t account for the date of manufacture.”

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KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy apologised for the incident and “any distress it caused to our passengers and crew” but said the rubber joints now being used could be stored for up to 10 years, and used for five years.TAIC chief commissioner Jane Meares presents the short report into the Kaitaki gear failure.“Our current regime for inspecting and replacing rubber expansion joint exceeds manufacturers’ guidelines, and TAIC’s recommendations, and has been audited by international class authorities and Maritime NZ. “We inspect the joints more frequently than TAIC recommends in its report, and replace them within four years of service use, rather than five years as TAIC suggests.” The part cost closer to $970, he said.

It comes amid a terse time between KiwiRail – which runs Interislander ferries – politicians and the public.The tugs alongside the Kaitaki in January.Auckland train commuters faced major cancellations on Friday due to a problem Auckland Transport blamed on “a significant fault with KiwiRail’s overhead power lines”.Meanwhile, Wellington train commuters struggled to get into and out of the capital this week due to significantly reduced train capacity, as KiwiRail scrambled to complete vital checks of the region's tracks.

Source : Stuff