Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry Strait Feronia has broken down (File photo).
Cook Strait travel woes have deepened once more with Bluebridge ferry the Strait Feronia parked up with technical issues forcing four sailings to be cancelled.
The ship returned from a routine inspection in Australia and was back in service on Sunday afternoon but a “minor technical glitch” meant it anchored in the Marlborough Sounds rather than coming to Wellington.
Ship tracking website Marinetraffic.com shows the ferry is anchored north of Picton. A statement from Bluebridge on Monday confirmed the ship had technical problems after its first commercial sailing of Cook Strait on Sunday.
Bluebridge spokesperson Will Dady said four Bluebridge sailings were cancelled on Monday due to the technical fault which engineers were working to fix.
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“We apologise unreservedly to our passengers for this disruption and are currently rescheduling or refunding those affected.”
For Wellington manufacturer Alan Baldwin, it compounded existing problems. His first Picton to Wellington ferry was postponed due to weather last week, then all ferries were cancelled as strong winds lashed the country. He and his wife caught a flight back from Blenheim but his work ute remained stuck in the South Island.
The captain and crew of Cook Strait ferry the Kaitaki took charge when the Interislander ship lost power in late-January.
He had been trying to rebook on the Bluebridge website but said there was “no hope” of finding a booking for about a month.
It is the latest in an ongoing saga for Cook Strait ferries, which have been dogged by multiple breakdowns and weather-related cancellations.
Parliamentary questions from August show that 93% of Interislander ferries were on time in the 2018 financial year, but this was down to 68% in 2022.
Meanwhile, 99% of Interislander ferries ran in 2018 versus 79% in the last financial year.
The ferry woes began to ramp up on January 28, when Interislander ferry the Kaitaki lost all power and drifted towards rocks before anchors were deployed and engineers restarted engines.
This led to Wellington harbour master Grant Nalder issuing an order last week that all Cook Strait ferries had to travel further away from the North Island south coast during strong southerlies in order to buy more time in another outage.
The Kaitaki was reduced to freight only but it is currently berthed in Picton due to a gearbox issue.
There was a period in February when Interislander’s Aratere was the only one able to take passengers.
At the time, Kaitaki was only taking freight, Interislander’s Kaiarahi stopped sailing because of an engineering fault, Bluebridge’s Connemara was out of action due to an engine problem, Strait Feronia was in dry dock in Sydney, and the Straitsman had to stop due to “urgent operational requirements”.
Public Transport Users Association national coordinator John Reeves has called for an independent inquiry into Interislander and Bluebridge to see why ferries keep breaking down.
“Interislander and Bluebridge are failing people. It is a massive inconvenience and should never have happened,” he said.
National transport spokesperson Simeon Brown recently described the ferry situation as making the Cook Strait ”the biggest pothole on State Highway 1″.