'Mariner' damaged during grounding

A commercial cruise ship has been sent to Bluff for repairs after it ran into gravel in Milford Sound on Thursday while carrying 101 passengers.

The Real Journeys-owned Milford Mariner grounded at Harrisons Cove, 2km from the Milford Sound terminal, at about 3pm, damaging one of its propellers. The captain used one engine to return to the terminal.

Company chief executive Richard Lauder said the ship had been sent to Bluff yesterday for repair and inspection.

Two investigations would be launched into the incident - one internal and the other by Maritime New Zealand. They would look into whether the incident occurred because of human error or whether the gravel bed had risen over time.

Mr Lauder expected the damage to the port propeller and possibly the shaft would cost $90,000-$100,000 to repair.

"We will also inspect the hull and rudder once we take her out of the water in Bluff in the next few days.

"She is expected to be out of service for two weeks, and the Nature Cruise is now being run on an alternative vessel the Sinbad."

While none of the 101 passengers on board were injured during the incident, Mr Lauder said all on board were "well aware" of the collision.

"There was no sense of panic.

"The Sound is typically very deep, the boats get close to the edges often and I'm certainly not aware of any recent incidents."

The Milford Mariner ran in to trouble just short of finishing its two and a-half hour cruise and the experienced captain opted to switch to one engine and guide the cruise ship back to the terminal.

Mr Lauder said there was no risk to the safety of passengers on board and apart from the financial aspect and the operational adjustments, the service would continue to run as usual.

"We don't like it to happen, of course. There was no harm and there was never any safety risk."

The ship began its journey to Bluff yesterday and was expected to take 30 hours on one engine.


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