Two Cook Strait ferry captains have been stood down amid
allegations of three serious incidents on the Interislander
crossing, KiwiRail has confirmed.
However, the suspension of two skippers would not have a
major impact on ferry timetables, the company said.
It follows allegations by New Zealand First leader Winston
Peters yesterday that KiwiRail was attempting to "cover up"
the three incidents, which took place in the last five days.
Two Interislander ferries, the Arahura and Kaitaki, were
involved in a near miss at Picton early last week, Mr Peters
In an incident on Sunday, when the Arahura was leaving
Wellington, the pilot on the nearby cruise ship Dawn Princess
told the Arahura skipper to take a certain bearing but the
skipper turned in the opposite direction and nearly hit a
third ship, the Citrus Express.
The third incident involved the Stena Alegra, which has a
damaged propeller, Mr Peters said.
"Reliable sources have told us this happened when the ship
hit a wharf in Picton."
Today, the company confirmed two of its ferry masters were
stood down while investigations took place but denied it
would impact on business.
"While we may need to move masters between ships, this is a
quiet time of year and there should be minimal impact on
freight and passengers," a spokeswoman said.
Interislander general manager Thomas Davis yesterday rejected
claims of a cover-up over the three incidents.
"No cover-up has occurred, and in the case of one of Mr
Peters' claims that recent damage to the Stena Alegra
propeller occurred because the ferry hit a wharf in Picton is
quite simply, wrong."
Safety was Interislander's top priority, and the organisation
encouraged a culture of full incident reporting as a matter
of practice to maintain its high safety record, Mr Davis
Mr Peters' two other claims of a cover-up also could not be
supported, he said.
Mr Davis also stressed that reporting in itself didn't
necessarily mean a safety incident had occurred.
"The incidents Mr Peters alleges have been subject to normal
investigation protocols and a full safety investigation has
begun, including the opportunity for all parties to share
incident details to establish if further action is required.
"Our internal investigation team is examining these alleged
incidents, including taking steps to ensure our staff are
treated appropriately through the investigation process," Mr
Maritime New Zealand said it was investigating all of the
Mr Davis said KiwiRail reported to Maritime New Zealand as a
matter of course.
"As with every investigation, staff allegedly involved were
stood down and as part of our standard procedures undertook
drug and alcohol testing."
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has also been briefed on
Reported near miss incidents between January 2011 to December
2013 involving all Cook Strait shipping operators:
* Maritime New Zealand received 68 incident reports of all
types in that period for all ferry companies operating in
* of these, 15 were reported as near miss, or close quarters
incidents, for all ferry companies;
* Interislander was involved in 36 reported incidents, and 10
near misses; and
* Interislander conducted 60 per cent of all ferry crossings
and has less than 50 per cent of reported incidents.
- Rebecca Quilliam and Patrice Dougan of APNZ