KiwiRail has moved to secure the future of the Cook Strait link by purchasing the Interislander ferry Kaitaki, the largest domestic passenger ferry operating in New Zealand. The ship had previously been leased.
“The Interislander fleet is the extension of SH1 across Cook Strait. Our ships are vital for tourism, and an important piece of the integrated transport network for freight, with road and rail working together to help drive New Zealand’s growth,” KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy says.
Last financial year KiwiRail’s Interislander ferries carried more than 1 million net tonnes of freight, 83,000 commercial vehicles and 800,000 passengers. The Kaitaki could carry up to 1350 passengers, more than the Aratere and the Kaiarahi combined.
Reidy said the ship had been leased from Irish Ferries, based in Dublin, but with the lease due to run out in 2020 there was no certainty the ship would be available after that. Reidy said there was a worldwide shortage of suitable secondhand ferries and heavy competition for available ships, so the best option was to take up the opportunity to purchase the ferry.
“Interislander leased the Kaitaki in 2005, and it has proved itself on what can be a challenging route. KiwiRail has been working with the port companies to look at long-term plans for ships and terminals and this decision means that we have the time to make sure we get the best possible solution.”