Travellers still dealing with ferry cancellations

Almost two weeks after the Interislander’s Kaitaki was taken out of service, people trying to cross the Cook Strait are still dealing with cancellations and delays.

Manus Schlooz arrived in Picton on Friday to find his ferry crossing had been cancelled and with no way get another booking – he caught a bus to Christchurch.

Schlooz was from the Netherlands and has been travelling in New Zealand for the last two and a half months.

He learnt on Thursday evening by email that his sailing had been cancelled and spent around four hours on the phone trying to reschedule his booking without success.

He was booked on a bus to Picton and travelled from Nelson on Friday – hoping he would be able to get on another sailing.

But his booking was made through Intercity – so Interislander said they were unable to help him at the Picton terminal without a booking reference.

“It’s just very hard to get in touch with anyone who knows what’s happening and if I’d gotten a call and they had explained what’s going on – because I know there’s been some issues with the ferries and it happens, there’s nothing you can do about it – the whole lack of communication, not being able to reach anyone is very annoying.”

Schlooz had planned to spend the weekend in Wellington with friends but with a cancelled ferry booking and no accommodation in Picton – he decided to catch a bus to Christchurch, from where he will fly out in a week and a half.

“It’s sad for my friends that I would have liked to see before I left New Zealand but I’m also not going to stay in Picton for two more days and I checked very quickly, and everything’s booked out already because I think there’s more people who need to stay here longer than I expected.”

Some of the people RNZ spoke to in Picton had their ferry bookings cancelled and rebooked without issue – while others had spent time on the phone, or had shown up to the terminal in order to be booked onto a new sailing.

But Interislander was asking people not to go to its terminals as it was not offering standby for sailings and was advising customers there was very limited accommodation available in Picton, Blenheim and Nelson.

It said sailings on the Kaitaki have been cancelled up until 22 March, with that date to be extended as required.

Destination Marlborough general manager Bruce Moffat said ferry services had been disrupted since the end of January and while communication with customers was initially poor, it had since improved.

Accommodation in Picton was at capacity, which made it difficult for people who found themselves stranded in the small town.

Meanwhile, KiwiRail said it was continuing to diagnose and repair the fault on the Kaitaki which has taken the ship out of service.

A gearbox issue was found while the shop was in port in Wellington almost two weeks ago.

Interislander general manager of operations Duncan Roy said a technical expert from the manufacturer arrived in the country from Europe last weekend and was working alongside the team to repair the fault.

There was no definite timeline for repair, but Roy said it was a less serious fault than that experienced by the Kaiarahi in 2021, so the Kaitaki was not expected to be out of service for a prolonged period, Roy said.

Customers booked on the Kaitaki up until 22 March have been told their sailings were cancelled and were being transferred onto other sailings close to their original booking time where possible.

Where a similar sailing time could not be provided, customers were asked to contact the call centre to re-book if they still wished to travel.

Roy said Interislander was holding all available space on its other ferries for Kaitaki passengers.

Customers that no longer wished to travel would have their fares refunded.