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Interislander 50th Anniversary

A Ferry Tale Connecting New Zealand for 50 years 1962 - 2012

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Aramoana the first RoRo Aramoana Introduced Roll-on, Roll-off Vessels to the New Zealand Coast


the extension of the aratere

One of Interislander’s most ambitious projects


Contribution to Tourism Interislander’s Tourism Role Increasing in Importance as Tourist Numbers Grow

Welcome Messages


Arahanga Launch




From the Editor Kevin Ramshaw


Early Administration


Masters and Engineers


Operation Pluto




From the Prime Minister Rt Hon John Key


The Terminals



From KiwiRail Jim Quinn, Chief Executive


Contribution to Tourism



the wahine storm


the extension of the aratere


From Interislander Thomas Davis, General Manager


Lifeboats of Cook StrAIT







Interislander Deeply Etched in the National Consciousness




Industrial Relations






Origins of the Ferry Service


Fast Ferries


Aramoana the first RoRo


LYNX Branding


Becoming a Shipping Company

Features 7






Steer Gleave Davies


Extending the Interislander Fleet



PUBLISHER Patrick McElligott PO Box 2173, Washdyke, Timaru NZ 7941 |

ADVERTISING North & South Island Michelle Fitzgerald P: 0274 664 384 E:

EDITORS Kevin Ramshaw Bettina Maniatis


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Introducing a Ferry Tale History, Colour and Drama

50 years of the Interislander Ferries


Kevin Ramshaw Editor

In the sweep of history, 50 years is the proverbial “drop in the bucket” yet into those short few years, the Cook Strait ferries have squeezed in an awful lot of history, colour and drama. It’s a remarkable story about ships that have battled the elements in one of the world’s most demanding waterways and about a service that has been critical to the New Zealand economy by creating a bridge between the country’s two islands. Through it all has been the need to adapt to change. Containers didn’t start making an impact on the New Zealand coast until the 1970s. By that time, ferries like Aramoana, Aranui, Aratika and Arahanga were already in service or being built. Arahura, still in service today, started sailing before the impact of road transport deregulation was felt. More recently Interislander has been faced with competition on Cook Strait and the need to meet market demand with larger ships. It’s also a story about the development of a service - that in its early years often seemed to customers more about rail freight than anything else - to one that is now also about brand and marketing success that passengers endorse. One of the milestones along the Cook Strait ferry journey was the advent of the fast ferries. Competition elevated the need for brand awareness and higher customer service standards. Speed restrictions aimed at improving safety and reducing shoreline damage caused by ferry wake brought the curtain down on the fast ferries but not before the travelling public grew accustomed to much improved customer service. The 50 years contains its share of myths. One of them is that ferry strikes go hand in hand with school holidays. The Strait has had its share of industrial disputes – as has the waterfront in general – but actual school holiday strikes were few and far between. The stories in this anniversary publication come from a variety of sources. I am particularly grateful for the use of Cook Strait Rail Ferries, an unpublished book by the late Ray Munro who helped set up the ferry service and was one of its early managers. What has been attempted is a description of how the service began and grew, the major events over the 50 years and recollections of some of the people involved.

Congratulations to all those involved with working on the Interislander ferries over the past 50 years. You’ve reached a significant milestone in the history of this service, which provides a crucial link between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Fifty years ago, the establishment of a roll-on roll-off shipping service to help better connect New Zealand noticeably changed the way business was conducted across the Cook Strait. Bringing the GMV Aramoana into service cut the travel time between Wellington and Christchurch. It boosted efficiency in the shipping of freight, and cut the cost of getting goods from one end of New Zealand to the other. Very few of the goods sold throughout New Zealand today have not come in one direction or the other, across the Cook Strait. Over the years, the size and speed of your shipping fleet has changed. So too has the name – from The Cook Strait InterIsland Rail and Road Service in 1962, to SeaRail in the 1980s. But your commitment to servicing the Cook Strait hasn’t wavered. I know that it hasn’t been easy over the years. The Cook Strait is a notoriously tough body of water to navigate. And the relative safety of Wellington Harbour and the Marlborough Sounds often present their own sets of challenges. As Minister of Tourism, the service you provide extends beyond the movement of freight, which I know is core to your business. You’re a must-see and do on the list of many visitors to New Zealand. And your 93 kilometre journey has become a tourist attraction in itself. In 50 years, the volume of cargo that your ships have been able to move has continued to grow. Today, Interislander services move around 785,000 passengers, 210,000 vehicles, and thousands of tonnes of freight, on 4,500 sailings each year. Congratulations on reaching 50 years of service. I hope you enjoy celebrating this milestone, and safe sailing in the future. Best wishes, Rt Hon John Key PRIME MINISTER

Read and enjoy. Kevin Ramshaw Editor


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Celebrating the Past and Planning for the FuturE

Jim Quinn Chief Executive KiwiRail

A 50 year anniversary is an opportunity to say congratulations but also to reflect on the past and plan for the future. At 50, Interislander is a youngster compared with the rail industry but like many youngsters, its energy and singlemindedness has some lessons to offer its parent. The inter-island ferry service was created to bridge Cook Strait. It used new technology in the form of “roll-on-roll-off ” ships to do the job. In the process, it changed the nature of the New Zealand transport industry. In the early days it understood clearly that its customer was first and foremost the railways, but as this changed, so did its focus. When deregulation of the road transport industry occurred in the 1980s what was then SeaRail welcomed a new group of customers, commercial vehicle operators. And as New Zealand grew in importance as an international tourism venue, the business took its cue from the passengers who wanted not only safe passage over Cook Strait, but a comfortable and even entertaining travel experience. The result has been the establishment of a business built not just around operating ships, but on meeting customers’ needs and expectations. Interislander is a critical element of the KiwiRail network. Its ability to complete the national rail network is vital to KiwiRail delivering to its customers’ requirements and creating the growth to become financially self-sustaining. The 30-metre extension of our main “workhorse” ferry, Aratere, completed last year provides the capacity we need to meet the demand today.  With the freight growth forecasts ahead, we will need more capacity in the coming years. Our other rail-capable vessel, Arahura is approaching 30 years of age. The replacement of that vessel combined with continuing to challenge the way we move freight will create the right answers for the long term. As with any competitive business, we have decisions to make about the shape of our fleet over the next 20 years. This vital link for New Zealand will continue to evolve as the market demands more and technologies change. For now we should celebrate the important role played by the Interislander, the great work the team have done for 50 years and the customers we have served. Jim Quinn Chief Executive KiwiRail

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It’s hard to think of another business that could have packed so much action and drama into 50 years. In part that’s the result of change and innovation associated with the ferries, in part the consequences of the challenging sea-way that is Cook Strait, and in part the colourful people associated with the ferry service. Aramoana went into service in 1962 and changed the nature of inter-island transport. Previously, cranes had lifted cargo off the dock and into the holds of ships. The arrival of the first “roll-on-roll-off ” vessel made it possible for rail wagons and vehicles to be moved directly onto the ship and off again at destination. It was a step change in meeting the needs of the supply chain and it came at a time when the flow of freight, particularly from north to south, was accelerating. Aramoana was also a considerable advance in moving people in the age before budget airline tickets and at a time when New Zealand’s appeal as a tourism destination was growing. Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper referred to the arrival of the ship as a “new era in communications” and described her as the “pathway across the sea”. But her maiden trip across Cook Strait delivered a reminder that shipping in New Zealand waters can be a tricky business. The area around the Picton wharf was crowded with small boats. The captain took evasive action but in doing so hit the wharf and punched a hole in the ship’s vehicle deck. The early years were dominated by the need to keep up with demand. Aranui was ordered when Railways realised that by introducing Aramoana, they’d opened a form of “Pandora’s box”. Arahunga and Aratika followed and then, as Aramoana aged, Arahura was ordered to replace her. During the period of TranzRail ownership, Aratere was ordered to replace Aratika. Old timers will tell you that Railways dominated the planning and management around ferries in the early days. This created tension among those who saw themselves as a shipping line. It was also reflected in the standard of service offered to passengers. In later decades, a stronger shipping focus and commitment to customer service evolved. Providing a service across Cook Strait is all about relevance. It’s a matter of providing what customers want when they want it, as far as the vagaries of weather, sea and a rugged coastline allow.

Relevance is a difficult test to meet in the shipping industry where ships are expensive, take time to build and need to stay in service for at least 20 years to be a viable proposition. It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that Arahura came into service in 1983 and was designed when the times that the distance road transport could operate was limited by regulation. Within a few short years, those restrictions had disappeared and the whole nature of the transport industry changed. The arrival of Aratere followed soon after the arrival of a competing ferry service on Cook Strait and coincided with the explosion in camper-van traffic and the advent of cut-price airfares. Fast ferry services in the early 1990s introduced speed and glamour into inter-island sailing, until speed restrictions eliminated their competitive advantage. As we think about Arahura’s eventual replacement, we ponder the trend to much larger ships with their cost implications, particularly if they are to be equipped with rail decks. There are also implications for the ports and terminals we use. One thing that hasn’t changed in 50 years is the physical challenge that Cook Strait provides. Changeable weather, treacherous seas and an unforgiving coastline have tested the skills and endurance of masters and crew. The elements have never got the better of any Cook Strait ferry although our crews have been at sea when the Wahine grounded and sank in 1968 and the Russian liner Mikhail Lermontov grounded and sank in the Marlborough Sounds in 1986. We owe a considerable debt to the dedication and skills of our crews who do their best to provide comfortable and safe crossings for our customers, regardless of the weather. So while the 50th anniversary gives us an opportunity to reflect on the nature and future of our business, it also gives us an opportunity to celebrate the skills, service and endurance of the men and women who have been responsible for a business that changed the nature of transport in New Zealand and continues to be a vital element in the country’s supply chain. It also gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the support of the commercial vehicle operators and passengers who have been loyal customers over the years, and without whom, there would be no Interislander. Thomas Davis General Manager InterislandER

DEEPLY ETCHED IN THE NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS Interislander is so deeply etched in the national consciousness that it featured as the ‘I’ on The ‘A to Z of New Zealand’ stamp series in 2008 along with the Beehive, Edmonds and the Haka. Over the years Interislander has become an iconic Kiwi symbol, synonymous with summer holidays. Not many New Zealanders can say they have not travelled on the ferry at least once. In the 50 years since the inter-island ferry service began, 35 million people have travelled on Railway’s ferries. In her first year of service the Aramoana carried 207,000 passengers, 46,000 cars and 181,000 tonnes of freight. These days, Interislander’s three ferries, Kaitaki, Aratere and Arahura on a 12-sailings-a-day cycle make 4,500 sailings a year carrying some 785,000 passengers, 52,000 rail wagons, 72,000 trucks and 210,000 cars. This equates to over 231 thousand nautical sea miles per year using 40 million litres of fuel.

Around 30 percent of Interislander’s passengers are international visitors which makes Interislander an important part of showcasing New Zealand to the world. International or local, they’re a hungry lot, munching their way through 110,000 servings of chips a year and slurping 315,000 cups of coffee or other hot drinks. With the journey through the Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sounds recognised as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world, half of the job is already done - the rest is about making sure customer service is top notch. To achieve this, Interislander employs around 600 staff including peak season staff to help out during the busy summer months.

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Sailing Cook Strait A Test of Seamanship and Navigation Sailing ferries between Wellington and Picton may look like a “cruisey” job, but any New Zealand mariner will tell you it’s far from that. “It’s true that half of each journey is spent in the relatively sheltered waters of Wellington Harbour, Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel, but don’t be deceived,” said Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis. “The rest of the trip is in Cook Strait which has a deserved reputation as one of the roughest stretches of water in the world. “Sailing our ferries demands the highest standards of navigation and seamanship. Apart from high seas, there is no shortage of natural hazards in the form of rocks, reefs, rugged coastline and narrow harbour entrances. “The sea lanes may not be as congested as the English Channel or the Baltic Sea, but there are five ferries constantly in service as well as a host of small craft that frequently become hazards to be avoided.” Mr Davis said the windy nature of Wellington and Picton creates additional hazards when the ships are berthing. The stormy nature of Cook Strait has given some of the masters who have served Interislander, pseudonyms they’ve carried with them throughout their career. Arguably the most colourful was “Gale Force”, applied to Captain Adam Gullen after one particular Aramoana sailing in 1971. Three years later, he was taking the ship from Picton to Wellington when he struck what was described as the worst gale to hit the Strait since the Wahine storm six years earlier. It turned what should have been a journey of just over three hours into a 26-hour ordeal for passengers and crew. Once out into Cook Strait, Aramoana struck 80-knot winds and 40-foot waves. When she struggled to get into Wellington harbour, Captain Gullen decided to ride out the storm. By midnight, the ship was 22 miles off Cape Campbell and by daylight, Kaikoura. 8

An elderly woman suffering a stroke persuaded Captain Gullen to head for Lyttelton. When he arrived, five of the passengers were taken to Christchurch hospital to be treated for injuries suffered as a result of the ship pitching and rolling about. “We were told the weather in Cook Strait was still atrocious so we headed for Lyttelton” Captain Gullen said at the time. The 26 hours passengers spent on Aramoana may have tested their endurance but not as much as a crossing three years earlier which earned Captain Gullen his nick-name and kept Aramoana at sea for 40 hours. Then there was the huge wave that pushed Aratere into a 47 degree roll and damaged dozens of vehicles a graphic reminder of the wild and unforgiving nature of the Strait for Captain Mike Swatridge. He was a Mate on that journey several years ago and in company with the Second Mate was doing a final check of the vehicle deck. “I can still remember this huge sound of crashing cars and campervans as they followed me across the deck,” he says. “Fortunately, I was able to dive under the railing around the bunker station which saved me from being crushed. “The ship hung back at 47 degrees for an absolute age as if deciding whether to come back – luckily, she did come back.” Captain Swatridge said the Second Mate called the Master on the bridge to tell him his fellow Mate had been killed, luckily he survived unscathed. “The cars and campervans were in a heap on the port side of the ship and I can remember thinking, ‘how am I going to break this to the passengers?’ “The passengers were stunned and white, thankful that they were still alive. There was not one that abused us - they were just grateful they were still alive.” Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis says the Cook Strait can never be taken for granted, but past experiences have provided valuable lessons for today’s operational staff. “The advance of technology and the trend to bigger, more stable ships, makes journeys for passengers more comfortable and trouble free than was once the case,” he said.

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‘ Short-Sighted’ Decision led to Introduction of the Ferries The Union Steam Ship Company’s decision in 1957 not to replace the ageing Tamahine on the Wellington-Picton route sparked the chain of events that led to the establishment of a Cook Strait ferry service. The company, owned since 1917 by British shipping giant P&O, was the major player on the New Zealand coast and the transTasman route. The Tamahine dated back to 1925. She carried passengers and freight across Cook Strait while the Ngaio worked between Wellington and Nelson. Historian Gavin Mclean in his history of the New Zealand Shipping Federation said the Union Company’s short-sightedness in not introducing a more modern replacement opened Federation members up to the risk of their arch-rival, New Zealand Railway, running a roll-on, roll-off ferry. “It was a fatal mistake,” he said. “Until then, Railways had failed to dent inter-island shipping because of the delays and doublehandling involved in loading and unloading wagons crossing from one island to the other. “With a RO-RO ferry, (roll-on, roll-off) Cook Strait would become a near-seamless link in the national railway and road network.


“Within little more than a decade, almost all general cargo travelling between the islands would switch from conventional coasters to Aromoana and her fleet mates.” The Union Steam Ship Company 1957 decision led to the appointment of a Cook Strait Transport Enquiry Committee. The committee held hearings in Wellington through mid-1958 and heard submissions from shippers, Government departments, local authorities, harbour boards, the military, air service providers and road transport organisations. It considered a number of options, including improving the air link for freight between Blenheim and Wellington. But in the end, the committee decided that a roll-on, roll-off ferry service, operating daily except for Sundays, was the best option. It recommended that the ship be designed for a speed of 10 to 20 knots, capable of carrying 80 motor vehicles or 40 motor vehicles and up to 20 rail wagons. It was not the first time the Government had looked at the introduction of an inter-island ferry service. A two-man study

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“ With a RO-RO ferry, (roll-on, roll-off) Cook Strait would become a near-seamless link in the national railway and road network.” followed the 1924 Royal Commission on railway services but came to the conclusion that an inter-island service would not be able to compete with conventional shipping. “As the proposed conditions of transport would be both more costly and slower, it is considered the goods offering for a train-ferry service would be practically negligible,” said the then Chairman of the Railway Board Mr F J Jones. One of the impediments to establishing a service was the fact that the railway link between Picton and Christchurch had yet to be completed. When it was completed in 1945 the Minister of Works Bob Semple commented at the opening function that he could foresee the day when Cook Strait would have a rail ferry service. The 1958 committee indicated that if its recommendation was supported, the Government would have to provide the ship but that it should be operated by a shipping company able to provide both the maritime experience and a pool of officers and crew. Conscious of Tamahine’s scheduled withdrawal in 1962, the committee recommended that the Government make a booking with ship builders and start drawing up plans and specifications. The cost of a ship was estimated to be around two million pounds. The Government accepted the advice and initially asked the Union Steamship Company if it was interested in both building and operating a vessel. When the company declined the invitation,  Prime Minister Sir Walter Nash announced in December 1958 that the Government would go ahead itself. The result was the acquisition of the first roll-on, roll-off vessel, Aramoana in 1962. Soon after it entered service, Aramoana carried a lighthouse keeper’s furniture from Okaihau in the far north to Bluff. It was a graphic illustration of the reach Railways had achieved. In its first year of service the ship carried 207,000 passengers, 46,000 motor vehicles and 181,000 tonnes of freight. The numbers were double the target set and in the case of passengers, more than double. By comparison, Tamahine had carried 60,000 passengers and only 14,000 tonnes of freight in her last year. The new service was immediately profitable. In 1967 by the time the second ferry, Aranui, was in service, the profit for the year was almost half a million pounds. This led to pressure for reduced fares and rates on the basis that a state-owned business had a responsibility to provide lowcost transport rather than make profits. The Union Company did eventually counter with two roll-on, roll-off vessels, Hawea and Wanaka, but both were sold within a decade of coming into service.

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Aramoana Introduced Roll-on, Roll-off Vessels to the New Zealand Coast The introduction of the first Cook Strait ferry Aramoana in 1962 brought the concept of roll-on, roll-off freight and changed the nature of shipping in New Zealand. Previously, ships had been loaded and unloaded using cranes. Having road and rail cargo load directly dramatically reduced turnaround times and costs. “The arrival of Aramoana was one of the most significant events in the nation’s transport history,” said Ray Munro, the railwayman who set up the original Rail Road Ferry office and accepted the first bookings for Aramoana. In his memoirs, Cook Strait Ferries as I Knew Them, he said: “The rail system now extended almost the entire length of the country. For the first time, a vehicle or railway wagons could be driven aboard a ship in one island and driven off in the other without having its load disturbed.” He said the service dramatically stimulated inter-island traffic and South Island tourism while it also sealed the fate of 12

conventional coastal freighters. Aramoana was commissioned as a result of recommendations made by a Cook Strait Transport Enquiry Committee in 1958. The following year, Railways’ General Manager A T Gandall and the Marine Department’s Naval Architect H D M Jones embarked on a fact-finding tour of Canada, Britain, Denmark and Sweden. In March 1960, world-wide tenders were invited to build the first rail ferry, based on general principles recommended by the Enquiry Committee and approved by the Government. The ship was to have a speed of 10 to 20 knots, be capable of carrying 80 motor vehicles or 40 motor vehicles and up to 20 rail wagons. Twenty-four tenders were received. The Scottish firm, William Denny and Brothers Ltd of Dumbarton on the Clyde were successful, possibly as a result of their long association with Union

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Steam Ship Company vessels. Denny’s also had lengthy experience building English crosschannel steamships and ferries. Interestingly, Aramoana was the last ship to be built at the yard before it closed. The English Electric Company won a sub-contract for the ship’s propulsion equipment. As the supplier of locomotives to New Zealand Railways over the years, they too were a known quantity. The ship was to cost approximately four million pounds and be delivered in May 1962. A year ahead of delivery, the Minister of Transport announced that the ferry would be called Aramoana, which translates as “pathway over the sea”. “It was a name well suited for the first rail-road ferry to provide a regular, reliable transport link across the stretch of water which had divided the New Zealand Railway system into virtually two independent systems,” said Mr Munro. Aramoana was launched on 24th November 1961 and entered Wellington harbour on schedule. Roll-on, roll-off vessels did require new berths in both Wellington and Picton. Transport historian, Victor Young records that a celebratory visit to Picton shortly after Aramoana’s arrival didn’t go strictly to plan. “While going stern first into the berth at Picton, strong winds caught the vessel, setting her towards the wharf,” he said in Ships of Wellington. “Attempts to correct the situation were frustrated by further gusts. “A small spectator boat moving between the ferry and the wharf left the ship no room to manoeuvre and the Aramoana hit the wharf. There was considerable damage to both ship and wharf.” Repairs were made in time for the first commercial sailing

Passengers on an early Aramoana sailing

on 13th August 1962. She began by making one return sailing six days a week but she quickly silenced those who doubted the viability of a ferry service and was soon making two daily return trips. In July 1977, Aramoana went to Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore for a refit. She was withdrawn from service after the introduction of Arahura in 1983.

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THE SHIPS Aramoana 1962-1983 3,968 gross tonnes - 112.2 m long 800 passengers / 90 cars

Aranui 1965-1984 3,821 gross tonnes - 112.2 m long 800 passengers / 113 cars

Arahanga 1972-2001 3,914 gross tonnes - 127.5 m long 36 passengers - 50 railway wagons

Aratika 1974-1999 3,879 gross tonnes (later 9,035) 127.7 m long - 10 passengers (later 800) - 50 railway wagons

Arahura 1983-present 13,621 gross tonnes - 148.4 m long 1085 passengers - 100 cars 60 railway wagons

The Lynx (1) (Condor 10) 1994-1999

Aratere 1999-present 12,596 gross tonnes 150 m long 400 passengers 1005 lane metres freight 425 metres rail freight


Aramoana was built in 1962 by William Denny & Brothers Ltd, Dumbarton for New Zealand Railways, Wellington. She was used on the Cook Strait service, carrying passengers, cars and railway wagons. Aramoana was withdrawn in 1983, and served as Captain Nicolas V, Najd II and Niaxco III as a pilgrim ship in the Indian Ocean and Middle East. She was scrapped in 1994. Aranui was built in 1965 by Vickers Ltd, Newcastle for New Zealand Railways, Wellington, for the Cook Strait service carrying passengers, cars and railway wagons. Aranui was withdrawn in June 1984 and later served as Aranui I, Nui and Njad III as a pilgrim ship in the Indian Ocean and Middle East. She was scrapped in 1994.

Arahanga was ordered in 1970 from Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. The yard went into liquidation during construction, although continuation of the work was allowed. Delivery was delayed until November 1972. Arahanga was the fist of two freight ferries, the second being the Aratika. Unlike her consort, she was not rebuilt as a passenger ferry. Arahanga was withdrawn and scrapped in 2001.

Aratika was built in 1970 by Dubigeon Normandie S.A, Nantes, and the second of two freight ferries delivered to New Zealand Railways. The withdrawal of the Union SS Co from the route prompted the early rebuilding of Aratika into a passenger ferry, returning to service in December 1976. She was withdrawn and sold in 1999, becoming the Virgin Mary.

Arahura was built in 1983 by Aalborgs Værft, Ålborg, Denmark, and replaced the two earlier ferries, Aramoana and Aranui. She passed to Tranz Rail Interisland Line in 1993. Arahura received a major refit in 2004, and remains in service.

Condor 10 was the first car-carrying fast ferry used by Condor. She is InCat hull number 030, and was delivered from Hobart in March 1993. Condor 10 operated the main services of Condor from Weymouth to Guernsey and Jersey through the summer of 1994, then returned to the Southern Hemisphere for the (northern) winter of 1994/1995 for a charter with New Zealand Railways between Wellington and Picton as The Lynx. The Tranz Rail charter was repeated between 1996 and 1999, with summer 1998 laid up in Weymouth. Aratere was built in 1998 by Hijos de J. Barreras S.A. Gijon, Spain. The Aratere returned home to Wellington mid-September 2011 after a fivemonth extension and refurbishment at Singapore’s Sembawang Shipyard increasing its capacity to: 17,816 gross tons 183.5 m long 650 passengers 30 trucks or 230 cars 28 rail wagons

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The Lynx (2) (Condor Vitesse) 1999-2000 Condor Vitesse was built by Incat Australia, Hobart, Tasmania, in 1997 for International Catamarans. She is 86.6 m long and 5005 gross tonnes. Condor Express can carry 800 passengers and 200 cars. Â In 1998 she was chartered to Condor as the Condor Vitesse for services from Weymouth to Jersey, Guernsey and St Malo. In November 1999 she travelled south to New Zealand for a charter with Tranz Rail as The Lynx.

The Lynx (3) (INCAT 0457) 2000-2003 The third Tranz Rail fast ferry to use the name The Lynx was Incat hull number 057, built in 2000. Her first use was with the Australian Trade Commission in September 2000. She joined Tranz Rail in November 2000, and her last trip was in July 2003.

CARTER OBSERVATORY The Lynx (4) (Incat 046) 2003 -2 005


The fourth Tranz Rail fast ferry to use the name The Lynx was Incat hull number 046, built in 1997. In August 2003 she was chartered to Tranz Rail, followed by charter to the Government of Trinidad & Tobago in April 2005.

Kaitaki 2005- present 22,365 gross tonnes 1650 passengers 600 cars

1810 m long 1780 lanemetres freight

Kaitaki was built for Irish Ferries in 1995 as the Isle of Innisfree, to operate on the Holyhead-Dublin route. She was replaced by the larger Isle of Inishmore in 1997, and then moved to the Rosslare-Pembroke Dock service. Following the arrival of the Ulysses in 2001, Isle of Innisfree was laid up and made available for sale or charter. Pride of Cherbourg (3) took a short charter with Stena Line between February and June 2005 as Stena Challenger, for service between Karlskrona and Gdynia. She was then chartered to Interislander for Cook Strait services in New Zealand as Kaitaki, after travelling down temporarily renamed Challenger.

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FAMILY TIES Early Ferry Master Inspired Grandson to Pursue Interislander Career The man who skippered New Zealand’s first inter-island ferry, Aramoana on her maiden voyage has been an inspiration to his grandson to pursue a career at sea and advance within Interislander. Kaitaki engineer, Darren Peake was just seven when his grandfather Eric died. “I always felt Granddad standing at my shoulder giving me a nudge and saying ‘go on, do your [engineering] ticket”, Darren said. Eric Peake was born in England but spent his career with the Union Steam Ship Company. He had joined as a Fourth Officer in 1936 and served in a number of ships including the Niagara, the first Rangatira and the first Wahine. During the Second World War he served on the hospital ship Maunganui. His first command was the Kanna in 1951. In 1961, he was one of two captains chosen to go to the shipyard at Dumbarton in Scotland, “stand by” the Aramoana and sail her to New Zealand – in the process establishing an inter-island ferry service. The commissioning of Aramoana was such a success that the Union Steam Ship Company passed on to Captain Peake a letter from the General Manager of Railways thanking the company for its role in the inauguration of the service. When the second Cook Strait ferry, Aranui, was commissioned, Captain Peake was again chosen to be a skipper on the maiden voyage. The Union Steam Ship Company sent him extracts from a letter to the company’s Chairman from the then Minister of Railways. “The fact that the ship has at last arrived and entered so

smoothly into service is in no small measure due to the personal efforts of Captain Peake and Mr Crabbe, the Chief Engineer. I know that because of the circumstances associated with the building of the ship, their task has been particularly onerous.” The sea was definitely in the family’s blood. Captain Peake’s father had worked on passenger liners in England. Eric Peake would have liked his son, Darren’s father, to also go to sea, but he had other ideas. “Dad did become a trainee marine engineer but decided instead on a career as a carpenter,” Darren said. “As Dad tells it, my grandfather was always at sea which didn’t do a lot for family relationships - but it was a lot tougher in those days than it is now. “He was very English and to me, a stern sort of man although the reports about him indicate he was liked by the crews who worked for him. “I remember a visit to the Captain’s office on the Aramoana when I was only about four or five years old.” The pull of the sea took time to exert its influence on Darren. He trained as a locksmith and worked in the business for 20 years. It was the arrival of the fast ferries in the 1990s that took him to sea. He worked as a general hand on the ferry based at Mana. “I nagged at Interislander until they gave me a job as a motorman on Aratere,” Darren said. “I was there for three or four years until Brian Anderson talked me into going to Kaitaki. “My condition was that I be able to qualify as an engineer.” He’s been an engineer now for four years. “It was the best thing I ever did,” he said. And Darren is keen to go on to the next step – second engineering officer. “I’ve thought about jumping the fence but it would disgust the Chief Engineer,”

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TRUE LOVE AT SEA JAMES WILSON, Marine Engineer Recalls Joining Aramoana in Scotland and Sailing Her Home James Wilson and his wife in Glasgow, 1960.

Marrying a New Zealand girl in Scotland led to Marine Engineer James Wilson joining the crew of Aramoana at her fitting out stage before her launch and sailing with her to New Zealand. James went on to serve on the ship for almost two years before reverting to his original intention to settle in Auckland. In this recollection of the time, he describes how he came to join the Aramoana, the voyage to New Zealand and the ship’s first two years of service. I had been at sea as a Marine Engineer since 1953. During a trip to New Zealand, I met a New Zealand girl from Christchurch. We married in Glasgow and spent about 18 months working in the UK. In late 1961, we decided to return to New Zealand. I contacted the Union Steam Ship Company about employment and went to London for an interview. The company was willing to fly me to New Zealand but then mentioned a ferry which was being built at Wm.Denny’s Shipyard in Dumbarton (Scotland). The Chief Engineer had requested a Second Engineer to be 18

assigned to the ship. I was living in Hamilton, about 20 miles from Dumbarton, and accepted the position offered as Second Engineer. I joined Captain Peake, Chief Engineer Crabbe, Chief Officer Charlie Palmer and Chief Electrician Alex Hamer. Later arrivals were Arthur White and Ray Gifford. It was a very busy time. Diesel-electric propulsion was quite new to all of us, I think the Aramoana was the biggest dieselelectric ship to be built in Europe. I commuted from home while the others were in private accommodation in Dumbarton or surrounding areas. Alex Hamer was “billeted” with “Wee John” and family in a state or Burgh house as we knew them – he (“Wee John”) was the local street sweeper. He was also president of the local bowling club and as a consequence, we all became “honorary members”. The club bar opened when the Dumbarton pubs shut. We managed a few pleasant hours when things were quiet. The Aramoana was I believe the last ship Denny’s built. As the various tradesmen finished their particular work, they were paid off and made their way to any other shipyard on the Clyde still building.  After the trials, there was a handing-over ceremony. Charlie the Mate and I were told to take our staff off the ferry before the ceremony and return when it was over, in late afternoon. We weren’t too happy about it. We took a taxi up to a hotel in

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“ It was a very busy time. Dieselelectric propulsion was quite new to all of us, I think the Aramoana was the biggest diesel-electric ship to be built in Europe.”

Gourock and had a very pleasant time there, getting back on board before midnight. With two engine rooms, each having three V-16 cylinder English electric diesel generators and the alternator room having three 6-cylinder, English electric alternators, it was noisy. There were no earmuffs available in those days. I think we were out on trials for five days. There were no major problems – or so we thought!  The trip to the Panama Canal was the usual four on, eight off boring and noisy!  We went through the Panama Canal and on to Tahiti for bunkers and left mid-morning for New Zealand. I was standing on the after deck with others and as we admired the scenery, we realised the ship was doing a 360 degree turn. We thought this was a nice gesture by Captain Peake for a photo shoot when actually the steering had stuck then freed itself with no one any the wiser as to why it happened. We carried on to Wellington, after doing all possible checks on the steering gear, but couldn’t find any faults. Arrival at Wellington was a problem as we were just a wee bit too wide to get up to the link span. The first trip to the berth at Picton was a bit of a nightmare for Captain Peake as the harbour there was crowded with small boats. We had to take some serious evasive action and hit a jetty punching a hole in the hull at the vehicle deck. Running the engine room was hard work as all the machinery had to be surveyed every four years so we had to start surveying the engines within a few months of arrival. A survey took three weeks. On one trip, the Chief Engineer, Bill Hall, cleared everyone out of the engine room as we were being thrown about so much. I was on day work and I worked 8am to 10pm. I felt there was always something going on in the engine room. Checks on the main generators at 1000 hour intervals took a day - the alternators about the same. Then one day the steering jammed just before the entrance to Tory Channel. Again it cleared itself for no reason. Understandably, the deck department weren’t too happy and we had to run both steering motors through Tory Channel. Another fault was the problem of running certain generator combinations. The Chief Electrician found the problem and an English Electric Engineer came out from Newcastle in NSW Australia with some new cams for the excitation motors. It took less than an hour to fix. As I recall, we never missed a trip, either through engine problems or bad weather, though I do remember a trip taking 12 hours because of weather. By December, 1963, I had almost two years of service on the Aramoana, and my wife and I intended to settle in Auckland. So after a couple of weeks with the in-laws in Christchurch, we arrived in Auckland in January, 1964. AU G U S T, 2 0 1 2


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No Time Lost in Extending Inter-island Ferry Fleet Beyond Aramoana

The rapid success of the first rail ferry, Aramoana, persuaded officials and politicians that no time should be lost in ordering and building a second. Before Aramoana had completed her first year’s service, the planning began for a sister ship. While it made sense to follow a proven design, there were some adaptations including more enclosed deck space and a taller bridge as well as passenger capacity being increased from 788 to 800. Named Aranui – in Maori “great pathway” – the new vessel was built by Vickers-Armstrong Ltd of Newcastle-on-Tyne. She cost about $4 million and entered service on 9th June 1966. Reductions in fares and freight charges were announced to take effect from the date of the introduction of the new twoship timetable. The Minister of Railways said it was the second reduction in passenger fares and car rates since the inception of the service. “Even at the reduced rates, a substantial profit of about $700,000 per ship is still expected,” he said. The Minister said he expected that with the new low rates, the capacity of the two ships would still quickly prove inadequate and that consideration would need to be given to a third vessel. The result was Arahanga, “the bridge” which broke new ground as a mainly cargo ferry, although she could carry 40 passengers – mostly truck drivers. Arahanga is also historically interesting as the last passenger ship to be built at the famous Clydebank John Brown Shipyard, builder of such famous ships as the Queen Mary and both Queen Elizabeths. Arahanga was slightly larger than her predecessors and at $8 million, more costly. She entered service in December 1972. But even before she was completed, a fourth ferry was in planning. Aratika, “direct path” was built in France by DubigeonNormandie at a cost of $8.8 million. She was similar to Arahanga in size and speed and was also intended to mainly carry cargo. But two years after entering service, she was given a $7 million refit to accommodate 800 passengers as well as cars and rail wagons. The re-scheduling of Christchurch-Picton train services in

1976 increased traffic volumes because passengers could make a continuous journey between Wellington and Christchurch in 11.5 hours. By the late 1970s, Aramoana had been in service for approaching 20 years. She was taken out of service in 1977 for an extensive refit and overhaul which included improvements to her passenger areas. In August 1981, she made her 10,000th return trip between Wellington and Picton. During her 19 years in service she had carried more than 5 million passengers and half a million rail wagons - and had travelled over a million nautical miles. But age was catching up with her. In the intervening years there had been advances in marine technology and passenger comforts. It was time to begin planning for a replacement. Arahura, “pathway to dawn” entered service in December 1983 as the flagship of the fleet. She was bigger, faster and more comfortable than her predecessors and included innovations such as a heli-pad, sophisticated navigational aids and stabiliser fins to make crossings smoother. Aramoana had been withdrawn from service in March 1983. Arahura’s arrival enabled Aranui to be withdrawn in June 1984. Both ships were subsequently sold to a marine agency in Saudi Arabia. In the 1990s, the need to replace ageing ferries became the main driver for fleet management. By 1990, Arahanga had been in service 18 years and Aratika 16 years. The answer was Aratere, “quick path” built for Tranz Rail in 1998 by Spanish ship-builders Astillero Barreras at a cost of $132 million. She came into service in 1999, replacing Aratika. Arahanga remained in service for another two years. When she was withdrawn, her commercial vehicle cargo role was filled for almost three years by the chartered vessel Purbeck with help on passenger and commercial vehicle services from the fast ferry the Lynx. By 2005, Toll New Zealand was operating inter-islander ferry services. The company chartered the 181-metre long Challenger, renamed Kaitaki, to carry vehicles and passengers but not rail wagons.

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Launch Went Wrong but Arahanga Avoided Bad Luck

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TOP: Arahanga under construction. BOTTOM: Preparing for the launch ceremony

The traditional ship launch involves a significant woman breaking a bottle of the best champagne against the hull – and the ship slipping gracefully into the water. In the case of the rail ferry Arahanga, while things didn’t go entirely to plan, the ship did not suffer the bad luck associated with a launch that goes awry. Arahanga was the last ship to be built by the famous Clydebank John Brown Shipyard. On the February day in 1974 when she was scheduled to be launched, blizzard conditions prevailed. Lady Blundell, the wife of the New Zealand High Commissioner in London Sir Denis Blundell, was the designated dignitary and she performed her task faultlessly. She broke the bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow and named her Arahanga. But the blizzard prevented the ship moving. She sat on the stocks for another two days until the weather cleared sufficiently for Railways representative E J Knox to press the button and send the ship down the slipway and into the Clyde. It was not only the launch delay that set Arahanga’s construction apart from other ferries. While she was being built, the John Brown Shipyard went into liquidation. As the ship sat half-finished and Railways negotiated with the liquidators, workers staged a “work in”. They continued to turn up for work without being on the payroll. Arahanga was eventually largely completed. Railways took the ship over with about three per cent of the work still to be finished, The Arahanga project enabled the shipyard to get through liquidation and be sold as a going concern to an American consortium for the manufacture of oil rigs. 22

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the early days

Union Steam Ship Company Operated the Early Cook Strait Ferries When Aramona was commissioned in 1962, Railways contracted the Union Steam Ship Company to operate its ships, an arrangement that lasted until 1971. The decision to contract the company to handle the operational side of the ferries was made by the Government. But Ray Munro, one of the early managers, recalls it met with Railways approval and worked well. “I am proud to say that not once in the nine years of company management did they or Railways have to lean on any single clause of the agreement to settle any difference of opinion,” he recalled in his book Cook Strait Ferries. The arrangement involved Railways paying the company a management fee of 1,250 pounds every four weeks. Ray Munro observed that Railways would never have set up its own maritime establishment for that amount of money. “I know that hindsight is always so much easier than foresight but looking back now, I’m sure that having the company manage our vessels for us in the early days was very sound thinking,” he said. “By the same token it suited the company to have the management of the ships under its control, particularly in the field of industrial relations. “As newcomers in the maritime field, Railways in their ignorance could quite easily have agreed to union demands which could have caused the company much embarrassment so far as the remainder of the fleet was concerned.” In October 1970, when Railways had let the contract for the construction of Arahanga, Railways gave 12 months notice of the decision to take over the operation of the ships. “This started one of the busiest years I have ever put in,” says Ray Munro. “It may not sound much, but there were 101 things

that had to be taken care of, not the least of which being the six Acts of Parliament that had to be amended to give Railways the legal right to manage its own ships.” Ray Munro says one of the biggest problems Railways faced was finding masters and officers to man the ships. The Union Steam Ship Company had posted the best of their captains, Chief Engineers and other staff to the rail ferries. “These people were all long-service company personnel getting on towards retirement,” he says. “Consequently they were just not interested in swapping horses in mid-stream.” Ray Munro recalls it was ironic that on the very day when Railways was due to start running the vessels in its own right, seamen went on strike over a national issue which culminated in the Seamen’s Union being de-registered. It was 10 days before the ships were finally put to sea under NZ Railways management. The change made Railways the second biggest shipping company in New Zealand - accentuated by the arrival of Arahanga and Aratika. The first offices were in the Railway Social Hall on Waterloo Quay. When that became too small from 1971, the office moved to the sixth floor of the Government Life Insurance Building in Customhouse Quay. The business has changed offices a number of times since. For some time it was based in Lion House which housed a New Zealand Breweries brewery. It’s also operated from the Wellington Railway Station.

ABOVE: Union Steam Ship Company documents: pocket guide and early share certificate

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Operation Pluto Straits Air Freight Express Ltd Bristol Freighter being loaded by the patented system of cargons and a traverser. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-065522-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

One of the Stranger Inter-island Episodes One of the stranger episodes in the history of inter-island ferry travel was the use of aircraft to move passengers and vehicles when the ferries were unable to sail. The airlifts were called Operation Pluto and they operated six times between 1969 and 1983, most often in response to ferry cancellations caused by industrial disputes. In the early days of the ferry service, using aircraft to move some freight was not uncommon. In fact, an organisational chart from 1976 is headed Air-Sea Services and is headed by a Controller, Air-Sea Services. Blenheim-based SAFEAIR, which operated up to nine aircraft, was contracted to provide air support and did so through the 1960s and 1970s.  It was not entirely industrial trouble that prompted the first Operation Pluto, although it did coincide with a 48-hour strike by the industrial organisation that represented marine officers. In 1969, Railways found themselves with a pre-Christmas backlog of north to south freight – mainly light and bulky goods such as toys and foodstuffs - and no space on the rail ferries to relieve the pressure on traffic.  “Many hundreds of pallets were hired and loaded in the Wellington goods sheds by departmental track gang staff working overtime in the evenings,” recalled Ray Munro, the man who headed the service soon after its inception. “The loaded pallets went to Wellington Airport and were forklifted into RNZAF Hercules and Bristol freighters.”  The aircraft landed at Woodbourne in Blenheim, unloaded and then returned to Wellington to reload. Approximately 350 flights carried almost 5000 tonnes of freight.  While this was happening, SAFEAIR, operating under charter to Railways, doubled its number of flights to help clear the backlog. The second airlift on 5th December 1971 was a response to an industrial issue which had escalated to the point that the Minister

of Labour, John Marshall ordered the de-registration of the Seamen’s Union. Flights were scheduled from 5th November until Wednesday 10th November. This time, the objective was to move people and vehicles. The Minister of Transport at the time, J B Gordon, known popularly as “Flash”, announced that the service was designed to ensure “the full utilisation of all available civil aircraft, supplemented by military aircraft, in shifting people between the North and South Islands.”  “At the same time, a limited service is available for transferring private motorcars,” he said. “Priority will be given to those people in emergency situations or those who have suffered bereavement.”  Rail ferry tickets were accepted as part payment of normal air fares. Around 320 flights took off, mainly Hercules and Bristol freighters. “Pluto was a costly and complicated exercise which in most cases has resulted in resentment from the maritime unions,” said Ray Munro. “The decision to mount the exercise is purely a political one. “The government of the day has to decide whether the particular hold-up to the ferry service is sufficiently serious and/or lengthy to warrant purely civilian traffic being handed over to the Armed Forces to transport.”  The third Operation Pluto airlift was prompted by the maritime unions stopping work in protest against the September 1976 visit of the United States Nuclear warship USS Truxton. Acting Transport Minister Hugh Templeton said more than 600 cars and 1,400 passengers were carried by the RNZAF and SAFEAIR.  “I am sure I speak for most New Zealanders when I say that this effort to assist the travelling public is something that will not be forgotten by the people whose holidays were placed in jeopardy,” said Hugh Templeton.  The remaining three operations were in February 1979, September 1980 and August 1983.

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Terminals THE Essential Link in the Freight and Passenger Chain Interislander’s Cook Strait ferry experience wouldn’t be the service it is without the terminals in Wellington and Picton which today provide efficient loading facilities for freight and comfortable surroundings for passengers. When Aramoana (800 passengers) and Aranui (800) entered service, the passenger facilities were much more basic – essentially what is now the entry lobby portion of the Arrivals terminal building in Wellington and an equally small structure in Picton. The terminal structures are owned by Wellington’s CentrePort and Picton’s Marlborough Port Company respectively.  Work on both terminals started in 1960, soon after the order had been placed for the first Cook Strait ferry, Aramoana.  In Wellington, the choice of site was determined by the need for adequate land close to the railway and to waters that were as sheltered as possible. It was also considered desirable that the site could handle large volumes of vehicles without affecting the normal operation of the port.  Three options were considered – the Inter-island wharf on Waterloo Quay, Fryatt Quay and Aotea Quay. Although it is furthest from the city, Aotea Quay was the site chosen.  The jetties were built in 40 ft of water at low tide. They were constructed from turpentine timber piles supporting hardwood caps and beams on which was cast a reinforced concrete deck.  A link-span was constructed, fitted with rails, to connect with the ship and enable both rail wagons and vehicles to be loaded.  In Picton, most elements of the terminal were the same as in Wellington. The main issue for what was then the Marlborough Board was the cost of the development.  The total cost of the work was just over 400,000 pounds, a large sum for an organisation still in its infancy. The problem was overcome by the Government through the National Provident Fund underwriting the loans and Railways guaranteeing that the harbour board’s income would not fall short of the amount needed to meet its outgoings. 26

Relatively quickly, at both ends of the journey, a second berth was considered necessary as the number of ferries operating increased. Work on the second Wellington berth began in 1969 beside the existing berth.  The second Picton berth was built in time for the arrival of New Zealand Railways’ third ferry, Arahanga, in 1972. It involved draining and reclaiming land in the Waitohi lagoon to create the space necessary for marshalling yards.  The work also included the 330 metre overpass bridge that is a feature of the Picton terminal along with improved passenger terminal facilities.  Another significant change for the terminals arose through the introduction of further new tonnage including the Lynx service which operated with a range of different vessels between 1994 and 2005, the Purbeck (2003-2006) and Kaitaki (2005 to the present day).  Each of these services required modifications to existing wharf and gangway structures in order to operate with each presenting their own challenges. The Lynx was initially a summer seasonal service carrying cars and passengers and because the stern door doubled as the loading ramp, to cope with tidal variations, pontoons connected to the end of existing linkspans, were designed and constructed at both terminals, to load and discharge cars.  Vessel changes in later years of the operation, enabled the service to expand to a year-round service, and to carry commercial vehicles as well as cars and passengers, which led to the establishment of a dedicated berth and terminal on Waterloo Quay in Wellington, and the construction of a loading ramp in Picton.

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ABOVE: Passengers embark at Picton terminal.

The same facilities were used with the introduction of Kaitaki, until in Wellington, the current berth was modified and infrastructure was added, in 2006.    As the inter-island fleet was rationalised, the original berths were withdrawn from service and operations consolidated on their replacements.  Today the terminals are managed for Interislander by Peter Birse in Wellington and Alistair Savage in Picton.   Passenger Terminal Facilities ‘Basic’ When Ferries First Began Sailing  When the first Cook Strait ferries began operating, terminal facilities for passengers were at best, basic and during summer peaks they were put under extreme pressure.  Former Wellington Terminal Manager, Brendon Wilson remembers luggage transfer was achieved using “noddies” - small carts similar to those used on airport aprons today.  “These were lined up in front of the terminals where staff helped passengers to tag and load their luggage and a small tractor towed them on board the departing ferry,” he said.  The reverse occurred on arrival where there was a “free-for-all” as passengers literally fought for their bags.  “It was quite normal for a busy sailing to require 15 to 20 ‘noddies’ to accommodate the luggage,” Brendon said. “Surprisingly there were few instances of missing or stolen luggage.”  In the early 1980s the first of the larger and more economical option, purpose-built trucks were built, which had tiered racks built down either side, into which suitcases – there were very few back-packs back then - could be stacked along the length and height of the truck.  The trucks enabled more luggage to be accommodated on a smaller footprint on the deck of the ship.  “Resplendent in their bright orange and cream livery, these were affectionately dubbed ‘Coca Cola’ trucks,” Brendon recalled. “Purpose-built bays were designed at both terminals so the

passenger ‘melee’ became slightly more organised.” With the introduction of Arahura, the passenger capacity grew to 1000 per crossing, which prompted the move to the more conventional box truck which is in use today, and at the same time, more formal check in procedures were implemented, and  airline-style carousels installed at both terminals.  The highest count of foot passengers experienced (mid 1990s), was 800, effectively more than two jumbo jet loads. It could be cleared in around 20 minutes.  Former Picton Terminal Manager Tony Bascand remembers when he joined Railways in 1971, the ferry operation was operated from the Picton Railway Station. “Once the allocation of rail tonnage onto the ferries was done, the clerical staff were required to walk down to the terminal office about an hour before arrival and then return after the departure to the station to carry out other duties,” he said. “This was because Marlborough Harbour Board had control of the terminal and allocated us a ticket office/baggage office.  “Under the leadership of Ivan Gough, Rail renovated the Picton Terminal by constructing a second floor on the building. This was all carried out while staff had to carry out their duties and sell tickets on the ground floor amongst the continual noise from the contractors. The terminal is still the same today although has been modernised where possible.”  One of the most significant changes to the Picton routine was the arrival of the fast ferries. As well as the extra ferries, there were also the issues of vulnerability to sea conditions and wake damage which polarised opinion in the town.  “The main impact on staff really was stress,” said Tony. “They could only travel in seas of three to four metres, and if they were carrying 800 passengers, tremendous pressure and stress went on staff. “It got to the point where managers were looking at weather forecasts two to three days ahead. This stress was wearing staff down, feeling the service was unreliable and putting great pressure on the two ships to clear huge back- logs.”

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Interislander’s Tourism Role Increasing in Importance as Tourist Numbers Grow As the number of tourists visiting New Zealand has grown, Interislander’s role in moving them across Cook Strait and enhancing their experience of the country has increased. “Over the past 20 years, Interislander has seen a significant increase in the number of international tourists travelling on board our ships,” said Interislander Sales and Marketing Manager, Gavin Rutherford. “Whether it’s a backpacker travelling on foot or an older couple driving a campervan between the islands, Interislander has seen the number of tourists on our ships rise from a few thousand to close to 300,000 each year.”   According to Gavin, international tourists now make up 30 per cent of all Interislander passengers, with the key markets being Australia, UK and the USA but a rising number of Asian customers also.  “As the number of tourists to New Zealand has risen, Interislander has had to adjust its marketing to ensure we receive our share of this business and look beyond the domestic market,” Gavin said. “A key part of this process has been to build an international sales team whose job is to establish relationships and secure commercial arrangements with key travel wholesalers who will then on-sell Interislander into their respective markets.  “Since 2006 we have also developed an internal wholesale reservation desk which is part of the Interislander marketing team and responsible for managing the customer bookings from the wholesalers.”  Gavin added that Interislander works closely with Tourism New Zealand to look for the emerging international markets that are most likely to bring long-stay, self-drive tourists who are the customers most likely to use Interislander in the future. Interislander Works with Wellington and Marlborough Tourism Promoters Interislander works closely in the tourism market with promotional organisations Destination Marlborough and Positively Wellington Tourism.

According to David Perks, Chief Executive of Positively Wellington Tourism and Chair of Regional Tourism Organisations NZ, Interislander plays a significant role in both the Wellington and New Zealand tourism communities.  He also said the service was not only one of the best ferry journeys in the world, but also reflects the coolest little capital in the world’s commitment to service, creativity and sustainability.  “Interislander is a tourism company that I’ve always found - much like Wellington - to be dedicated to continuous improvement and creative thinking,” David said. “From supporting New Zealand bands and musicians through trading passage for performance, to the establishment of the Premium Plus lounges, they are always thinking of how they can best serve their customers’ needs.”  Destination Marlborough Chief Executive, Tracy Johnston added that Interislander has long been a significant contributor to the regional promotional efforts of the Marlborough region.  “Over the last 50 years Interislander has been delivering travellers into the Marlborough region,” she said. “Visitors arriving into the picturesque port town of Picton to start exploring the region get their first taste of the mighty Marlborough Sounds from aboard the ship.”  According to Tracy, the ongoing support at both a domestic marketing and international promotional level has ensured the Marlborough region’s profile as a visitor destination continues to build.  “In the last 30 years the region has become internationally recognised for producing world class wine and the Marlborough Sounds has become a popular destination for New Zealanders and international holidaymakers to walk, kayak, cruise and relax in with family and friends,” she said. “Throughout this time, Interislander has worked alongside us to promote the region as an attractive holiday destination.”

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Aramoana Made Desperate Late Bid to Help Foundering Wahine The 10th April 1968 Wahine disaster is deeply etched in New Zealand maritime history. As a Union Steam Ship Company vessel sailing between Lyttelton and Wellington, Wahine was not a rail ferry, but the drama that unfolded on the day, enveloped the rail ferries as it did Railways staff and much of New Zealand. On that morning, winds gusting up to 120 knots whipped up huge seas which pushed Wahine towards Barretts Reef as she attempted to enter Wellington harbour. Of the two rail ferries then in service, Aranui was in Picton scheduled to sail for Wellington at 10am while Aramona was in Wellington, having berthed at 10pm the previous night. In Picton, the weather was so calm that Aranui’s Master couldn’t believe it when he was instructed to stay put. In Wellington, only three of Aramoana’s six engines were working – the remainder had crankshaft problems. The late Ray Munro, who was manager of the inter-island ferry business at the time, records in his book on the formative years


of Cook Strait ferries that by 6.30 in the morning, it was apparent that Aramoana could be needed to help Wahine. “All engineers turned up and assembled the engines with the suspected cracked crankshafts,” he wrote. “By 9:30am full power was available from five main engines, the normal maximum power available on the ship.” Ray Munro said that the Master and crew of a ship ready to put to sea found it hard to believe that their help wasn’t called for. As the morning wore on, the Master became impatient and when he heard by radio that Wahine was beginning to roll over, he ordered Aramoana’s engines to start and the mooring ropes to be cut. When Aramoana arrived at the scene, she found Wahine had rolled over. Those passengers who were in the water had begun drifting towards the Eastbourne rocks. Aramoana’s height from the water made rescues extremely difficult. Ladders were dropped, but survivors in the water were too weak to climb them. Ray Munro records that one survivor was to say later that he wouldn’t even try to climb the ladders on a good day, let alone when the ferry was pitching about in heavy seas.

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“Captain Dodds (the Master) decided to steam back to a short distance inside the harbour and drop his Nos 1 and 2 lifeboats,” wrote Ray Munro. “They were in the water by 2pm and despite the rough seas, got away safely.” No 1 lifeboat managed to pick up two elderly men, a boy and a motorman from Wahine. But when it got into broken water at the harbour entrance, the tiller was broken, the motor swamped and the boat filled with water. It eventually was driven up onto a stony Eastbourne beach. Although some of its occupants were pitched into the sea, they all made it ashore and survived. The second lifeboat fared no better. It was hit by a huge wave bow-on and overturned. The crew and two survivors they’d picked up clung to the up-turned hull for about an hour until they were rescued by the crew of a fishing boat. The lifeboat ended up a wreck on sharp rocks near Hind’s Point. Captain Dodds had continued to maintain his position on Aramoana and used the ship’s bow thruster to wash survivors towards the RNZNVR launch Manga. “I have studied the findings of the Wahine Enquiry at great length,” wrote Ray Munro. “Nowhere can I find the reason why

Aramoana, which, on the day must have been the sturdiest and highest powered vessel in the Wellington harbour, lay at her berth at the Rail Ferry Terminal while Wahine foundered. “As a layman, I cannot help but wonder whether Aramona would have been able to save Wahine had she been called earlier. I know that Captain Dodds and many of the officers and crewmen who made up Aramoana’s ship’s company on the day share my views.” John Brown, a veteran ferry master and skipper of the pilot boat Tiakina on the day is more doubtful. He points to the fact that Aramoana’s height from the water made picking up survivors problematic and that the sending of two lifeboats had effectively added to the number of disabled boats in the water. Nor did he believe Aramoana could perform the duties of a tug. “It had no towing equipment such as heavy wires and even if she did manage to get a tow wire secured, the Wahine was not going to be towed anywhere as she had two anchors down which could not be released as the tug Tapuhi found out,” he said. John Brown also believes events unfolded more quickly than Ray Munro remembers. He says Wahine did not hit the rocks until 6.41am and the harbourmaster did not close the port until later.

“ As a layman, I cannot help but wonder whether ARAMOANA would have been able to save Wahine had she been called earlier. I know that Captain Dodds and many of the officers and crewmen who made up Aramoana’s ship’s company on the day share my views.”

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Lifeboats of the Cook Strait Ferries Known Affectionately as ‘Lifeboats of Cook Strait’ for Rescue Work In shipping circles around Cook Strait, the inter-island ferries have become affectionately known as the “Lifeboats of Cook Strait” – a reflection on their involvement in a number of rescues over the past 50 years. Despite the pressure associated with maintaining commercial schedules and the need to be aware of passenger comfort in heavy weather, ferries have always responded to calls from coast radio stations, ZLW, ZLEG and others. They’ve diverted to search for overdue vessels, missing divers and for crews that have had no option but to abandon their boats usually after they have been stressed to pieces in the wind and tide west of Sinclair Head. Marine Search and Rescue veteran and launch-master Lew Robinson recalls the calls have also come as a result of flare sightings, arms being waved and various other means of signalling distress. “And at times they’ve come from the all-important application of ‘sixth-sense’ by the particular ferry’s master and bridge team,” he said. “Sharp-eyed passengers too have contributed by passing on sightings to the bridge and again when search situations have

developed and extra ‘lookouts’ are called for.” The following list details some of the events in which ferries have participated:

1967 Launch Valetta drifted in a north-west gale eight miles east of Tory Channel. Aramoana stood by until the launch’s engine was re-started.  

1968 Aramoana and a fleet of small craft attended the abandonment of the stricken Lyttelton ferry Wahine east of Steeple Rock. Two lifeboats were launched in a moderate swell with heavy surf prevailing in the shallows further east. People were recovered from the water.

Early 1970s Aramoana stopped two miles west of Karori Rock to recover two people seen drifting in lifejackets. The crew were assisted by the Police launch. One person was recovered alive; the other deceased.

1976 At approximately 0040 in wind from the south to 80 knots and in a position three miles south west of Karori Rock, Aramoana hove-to upwind of the yacht Rushcutter (rig lost over the side) and soon after Diaz (rudder carried away). The lee provided to both made it

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possible for two shore-based rescue boats to get a line fast on each and start towing for Wellington. No lives were lost.

Also in the 1970s A call was received from ZLW requesting vessels in the sea area about Cape Campbell to report positions. A ferry responded and diverted south in search of three fishermen adrift in a life-raft after their trawler had sunk. Raft and survivors were found and recovered aboard through the stern door.

1976 Dismasted yacht Taniwha was wallowing in 40 knots of wind three miles south of Thom’s Rock. She was taken in tow to more sheltered water by Aranui.

1981 Aramoana outbound from Tory Channel in good weather sighted an SOS from the 18m ketch Attila II which was taking water. Pumps were arranged and a line put aboard before towing commenced eastward across the Straits.  The crew of four plus one dog expressed their thanks. 

Later in the 1980s A lifeboat was launched from Arahanga south-east of Thom’s Rock after sighting an 18ft yacht with her decks awash after capsizing in 50 knot winds. The crew of two were saved by this intervention.

1986 When outbound from Picton for Wellington, Arahura diverted to Port Gore to assist gas tanker Tarihiko and a fleet of small craft to effect rescue of passengers and crew on the stricken cruise liner

‘Mikhail Lermontov’. All 739 passengers and crew (except one) were recovered after the vessel capsized and sank in the mist, rain and darkness that prevailed on the evening in a remote area of the outer Sounds.

Late 1980s Arahanga diverted north to south-east of Fisherman’s Rock after picking up a May Day call from the ferro sloop Koura sinking in 800m of water. A family of six (including one dog and one cat) escaped into a life-raft. They declined the offer of help from a helicopter that was first on the scene and waited for Arahanga’s boats.

2001 Fast Ferry The Lynx stopped in Tory Channel. The crew stoodby to provide medical assistance to the crew of a small craft attempting to revive an unconscious diver. Attempt unsuccessful.

September 2010 Aratere stood-by a burning 13-metre wooden pleasure boat Tiare on fire off the entrance to Wellington Harbour. Lew Robinson says this is an indicative list rather than a definitive one. “We have no hesitation confirming these re-collections and indeed the hundreds of others not re-called on this occasion have been undertaken in accord with the finest traditions of saving life at sea.” he said.

Den Ray Marine and VIKING Life-Saving Equipment congratulate Interislander on 50 years of sailing the Cook Strait. Since the arrival of M/V Kaitaki in 2005 we have been proudly providing service for the VIKING Marine Evacuation System and liferafts. We were pleased to have provided life-saving equipment upgrades to both the Arahura in 2009 and Aratere in 2011, both vessels now have the latest VIKING MiniChute Systems. “ Interislander is very pleased with the service and support that we have received from Denray / Viking since we started working with them 7 years ago and especially with the establishment of the dedicated crew training facilities for our evacuation slides and

We look forward to a long and successful working relationship with Interislander as their leading life-saving appliance supplier and service provider, from Denray’s newest service facility in Wellington.

chutes. The new MiniChutes now fitted to ARATERE and ARAHURA have provided a step change in our ability to evacuate people quickly and safely from our ships and we are really pleased with the ease of use and reliability they provide.” Peter Wells: Manager Shipping Services


Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington E:

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Technology is Helping Make the Ferry Crossings Safer

LEFT: Wellington Regional Harbourmaster Mike Pryce. RIGHT: Inside the Beacon Hill Communications Station

Wellington Regional Harbourmaster Mike Pryce has watched the Cook Strait ferries come and go for many years. In this contribution, he provides his perspective on the ferries and the technological developments that have made the crossings safer. It is 50 years since the trail-blazing rail ferry Aramoana entered service across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton, followed within a few years by Aranui, Arahanga and Aratika, and these four ferries became household names as Cook Strait ferries. All initially displayed light green hull colours, before being changed to “cruise” white in the 1990s - possibly a pity, in some ways, as the same light green colour could be marketed as “eco-green” these days! The ferries soon became part of the Wellington Harbour scene, plying back-and-forth like clockwork most of the time, and changing forever how cargo, passengers and their cars crossed between North and South Islands. Only the occasional (and inevitable) bad weather crossing evoked comment.  The one-hour turnaround time was a world-class operational aspect and is still respectable even today. The ferries operated a relatively “leisurely” timetable of two return crossings per day until 1994, lying alongside at Wellington or Picton from late evening until early morning. After 1994, 24-hour sailings enabled three return crossings per day, so that ferries operated throughout the night - and the timetables have changed a bit over the years. Various “The Lynx” fast-ferries operated from 1994 to 2005,

introducing a faster way of crossing Cook Strait.   The ferries have long become part of the harbour scene, often taken for granted as they ply back and forth into and out of Wellington Harbour. With regards to ship movement numbers, Cook Strait ferries comprise 80 per cent of shipping movements through Wellington Harbour entrance. Modern electronic equipment fitted to ferries and ashore helps to ensure that their voyages are safe and well-monitored. Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Beacon Hill Communications Station (Wellington Harbour Radio) had a new building opened in December 2010, fully-equipped with the latest electronic gadgets. The station operator is able to check positions of vessels by radar and by AIS (Automatic Identification System - similar to monitoring aircraft transponders, but from ships). A wave-rider buoy off Baring Head provides swell-height information, an in-harbour weather system provides wind-speed and direction information at various locations inside the harbour, and webcams enable the sea and weather conditions at the harbour entrance to be viewed “live” so that nobody is in any doubt about the weather conditions prevailing. Similar sophisticated electronic equipment and data -recorders are fitted to the ferries, all helping to make their routine voyages safer, and enabling various operational departments ashore to know exactly where the ferry is and when it will arrive.  It is a far-cry from “the olden days” of bad-weather when the ferries disappeared into the spume!

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Year of the Dolphin

The year 1990 stands out in the history for inter-island ferry services as the year the business modernised its brand and began to stand on its own feet as more than just an extension of the railway. Out went the green paint which had become standard ferry livery and in came a new white colour-scheme complemented by a blue and green dolphin motif. It coincided with a new ferry group general manager, recruited from outside railways. Ian Newman had worked in the transport industry in Australia. He brought energy and fresh ideas to the business. “He seemed to many of us in the ships to be a breath of fresh air,” said long-time Interisland service staff member and Marine Superintendent, Julian Lillico. Then a second officer on Arahura, Julian Lillico said Ian Newman took the time to sail on the ferries and get to know their issues. “Committees were set up between ship and shore to implement Total Quality Management which was the flavour of the month at that time,” he said. “These committees, despite some sceptics, got good support from the ships and did good work. “A respected European shipping consultant was engaged to study how we were run. “We started to feel like a shipping company.” Former Interisland Line Marketing Manager Peter Lawson was in the thick of the re-brand. “We did a considerable amount of research and found that people didn’t relate to the SeaRail branding at all,” he said. “There was some concern within the business about the introduction of new white livery  - because of the risk that rust would spoil the effect - but in the end, the branding was just so much more people-friendly than we’d had before.” Along with the changes to the colour of the ships came 36

marketing initiatives like recruiting the New Zealand band the Warratahs to record “Cruisin’ on the Interislander” - still an important element of Interislander marketing although no longer sung by the Warratahs. “I heard subsequently from a member of the band that when they played gigs, fans would ask them to sing the song - that’s how popular it became,” said Peter. There was scepticism too at some marketing initiatives. Pete remembers staff weren’t impressed when as well as repainting the shuttle buses that met the Wellington ferries, funnels were mounted on top, “They were a fun thing to lift the public profile,” he said. “The public loved them but our own staff weren’t so enthusiastic.” Ian Newman’s resignation in 1992 and the Interisland Line’s return to reporting directly to a rail manager was a disappointment to Julian who had been appointed Marine Superintendent after a period commanding a ferry. It was followed a year later by the sale of New Zealand Rail to the Fay Richwhite-led consortium, a period Julian Lillico found particularly interesting. “I had to take the various bidders on board each of the ships for a round trip and answer their questions,” he said. “Maybe because I had previously worked in commercial as opposed to government organisations, I found the change refreshing.” Changes to the brand have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary ever since. Interisland Line became the Interislander under Toll NZ ownership and the dolphin branding has been adapted. “The research we do tells us it’s a brand New Zealanders know and like,” said current Interislander Marketing Manager, Gavin Rutherford. “The fact that many of the elements of the branding were introduced more than 20 years ago speaks volumes for how effective they’ve been.”

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

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AT THE HELM Variety and Challenge Get Interislander Manager Out of Bed in the Morning Interislander’s General Manager Thomas Davis is no industry veteran but he’s old enough to remember the first two Cook Strait ferries. “I grew up in Wellington and I can remember going on family holidays to the South Island on Aramoana and Aranui,” he says. Thomas joined New Zealand Railways as an accountancy cadet in the mid-1980s. Over the past 25 years, he’s seen the business take a number of twists and turns including corporatisation, privatisation and a return to public ownership. He’s enjoying his second term at the helm of Interislander – the first was in the years before Tranz Rail’s purchase by Australian transport company, Toll Holdings in 2003. According to Thomas, the variety and challenge the job provides is what appeals to him most. “At any given time, there is always a variety of issues to be managed,” he says. “The challenge we face is to adapt to the changes that are occurring in our business and to make it sustainable in the long term.” A business that involves shipping, rail freight, commercial

vehicles and tourism could easily suffer from an identity crisis, but Thomas has no doubts about the nature of the business he runs. “We’re all of these things, and comfortable with them,” he says. “Interislander’s success has been built on its ability to adapt to change. “We may only have been around 50 years, but a great deal has changed in New Zealand in that time. “If you think about it, the ferry service pre-dated containerisation and the deregulation of road transport. “It’s had to contend with a number of owners, a variety of ownership models and the advent of competition on Cook Strait. “Through all of this change, it has adapted and maintained its focus.” He was an Australian who was recruited in 1990 from the transport industry in Australia to become General Manager of what was then the Interisland Line. “Interislander has become the success that it is because of its ability to respond to different markets while adapting to a changing environment and ownership,” he says. Ian Newman was appointed at a time when the business was anxious to loosen the ties that many of its staff felt was the restraining influence of its railway owners.

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“ Interislander is a great business with a fantastic brand. The people who work in the business genuinely understand the brand and are enormously proud to be associated with it.” “Ian seemed to many of us in the ships to be a breath of fresh air,” recalls industry veteran Julian Lillico. “Committees were set up between ship and shore to implement Total Quality Management which was the flavour of the day at that time. “We started to feel like a shipping company.” The relationship between rail and the ferry business had been an issue to be managed from the very beginning. When Railways took over the operation of the ferries from the Union Steam Ship Company, the business was managed by a Controller of Air-Sea Services who reported to the Chief Traffic Manager of Railways. The late Ray Munro, one of the early controllers, talks in his book Cook Strait Ferries about early disagreements over who should be responsible for things like maintenance and provisioning. In the beginning, the service was housed in the old Railway Inter-island Building next to the Railway Social Hall on Wellington’s Waterloo Quay. “We shared this building with the Sleeping Car Depot of Catering Services,” he recalls. Thomas Davis acknowledges the importance of rail to the creation and development of the Cook Strait ferries.

“In the beginning, it was largely about rail because regulation curtailed the amount of freight that could be moved by road transport,” he says. “We have built on this with a growing international and domestic tourism market and a successful road freight business, but our primary purpose remains to carry rail freight. “It’s been possible because of dedicated staff who take a pride in the business and keep the operations going day in and day out. “These same people have taken up the challenge to change and adapt when the business needed to change. “They’ve done a terrific job improving customer service and adapting the business to meet the challenges of competition.” Thomas Davis’s immediate predecessor, Seamus O’Sullivan has a similar view. “Interislander is a great business with a fantastic brand,” he says. “The people who work in the business genuinely understand the brand and are enormously proud to be associated with it. “Interislander’s service levels are among the best in the ferry world and should be a bench-mark for the entire KiwiRail business.”

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I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S


THAT catchy tune PHOTO: Suzanne Knibbeler

cruisin’ on the Interislander – What a Way to Start an Advertising Campaign What the seagull family did for the fast ferry the Lynx, the country-rock band the Warratahs did for the conventional Interislander ferries. “What a way to start a holiday, cruisin’ on the Interislander,” is a song that runs through many heads as passengers queue to board Aratere, Arahura or Kaitaki. Written by one of the creative team at the agency DDB Needham, it became the centrepiece of an advertising campaign in the early 1990s that convinced New Zealanders Interislander was an experience worth sharing.

The song became so popular that the Warratahs were asked to sing it regularly at live gigs. It caught the mood of carefree relaxation which is part and parcel of the Interislander travel experience. The song has been so enduring that when the time came to look for something new, the decision was made to record teenage singing star Moana Leota singing the song and giving it a fresh interpretation.

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THE NEW ZEALAND SHIPPING FEDERATION represents the interests of the main coastal shipping operators in New Zealand. These are: Golden Bay, Holcim, Interislander, Pacifica, Silver Fern Shipping and Strait Shipping. Both NIWA and Transport Logistics are Associate members. The Federation is committed to working with government and its regulatory authority, Maritime NZ towards continually improving performance across the sector. This includes developing and delivering the best possible training and qualifications regime for people working in the sector as well as maintaining the highest possible ship operating standards. We are also committed to working with Maritime NZ to ensure that the regulatory environment is as effective and efficient as possible.


Sheryl Ellison, President:



Jim Doyle, Executive Director:

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NO! the ferries don’t always strike during school holidays Tourists stranded in Wellington by a seamen’s strike Photograph: Mark Round, Dominion post (Newspaper) Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

“If it’s school holiday time, it’s almost certain the ferries will be on strike” is an enduring complaint levelled at the inter-island ferries. But it’s not a view shared by ferry unions or management.  “It’s a fallacy that the unions would strike during school holidays,” says John McLeod who was General Secretary of the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild from 1987 to 2002. He attributes the myth that’s grown up around the ferries to the 14 days’ notice of industrial action unions were required to give because ferries were considered an essential service.  In his view, the difference between the 14 days’ notice was often lost on both the public and the media, leading to the impression that strikes were frequent.  “It was never the unions’ intention to use school holidays as a lever,” he says. “In reality, because freight was more important to Railways’ bottom line, disrupting freight sailings was a more compelling target.”  “It’s true that the coast and the waterfront has at times been an industrial battleground,” says current Interislander General Manager, Thomas Davis. “In reality, the battles have been comparatively rare but they’ve been magnified by the nature of the business, the colourful people involved and intense media interest.”  Among those colourful people have been former Seafarers’ President Dave Morgan – always wearing his trademark fedora – and Seafarers’ secretary, the late Gerry Evans. The most vilified were the Cooks and Stewards Union, singled out in the infamous National Party “dancing Cossacks” television advertisement during the 1975 election. NZ History on Line suggests that in the past, Railways management sometimes contributed to the impression that the waterfront was more interested in its own affairs than on serving the public. “Railways sometimes seemed more interested in moving its own rail wagons than people,” it records. “In 1988, angered by cancelled sailings, passengers took matters

into their own hands. After sleeping in the tatty old terminal and watching ferries come and go full of rail wagons while being told that there was no room for people, passengers blocked the railway line until promised higher priority for people and cars.” Ray Munro, who helped establish the rail ferry service in 1962 and was Controller of Air/Sea Services, is cautious about blaming unions for stoppages. “Unfortunately the vessels have become synonymous with strikes and stoppages,” he said. “I say unfortunately because an exercise I carried out last year (1987) revealed that over the previous seven years, more than 93 per cent of scheduled sailing of the vessels actually operated.”  He said that of the remaining number, the majority had been cancelled because of bad weather, mechanical issues or insufficient freight.  He calculated the number of sailings lost to industrial issues amounted to just over one per cent.  Ray Munro and John McLeod agree on one thing – shipping is a tough business in which unions have historically had to fight for terms and conditions.  “People possessing little or no knowledge of the marine industrial scene could be forgiven for not knowing that traditionally over the centuries, the ship owner has given his crews nothing ‘out of the goodness of his heart,” says Ray Munro. “One had only to follow the television drama, the Onedin Line to appreciate this fact.  “Is it any wonder therefore that the seafaring trade unions – both officer and rating organisations – fight tooth and nail not only to retain the conditions that they have fought so hard for over the years, but also to improve those same conditions if at all possible?”  “World-wide, ship owners concede nothing – they always cry poverty,” says John McLeod. “Everything we achieved, we had to fight for.”  He says rail ferries created industrial tension because the Union

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The former President of the New Zealand Seamen’s Union, Dave Morgan, with his trademark fedora, was both a colourful and significant player in industrial disputes involving the Cook Strait ferries. The union’s 1989 occupation of the New Zealand Shipping Corporationís boardroom was a demonstration of the unionís ability to fight its battles through the media. Union Secretary at the time, the late Gerry Evans, records in his book, Where Giants Dwell, that the union had long recognised public relations were important. Dave Morgan, with a flamboyant taste in large, dramatic hats and snazzy ties, and a colourful turn of phrase, was ‘good talent’ as television journalists say. Seamen’s Union president Dave Morgan occupying the Shipping Corporation’s boardroom. Photograph: Ross Giblin. Dominion Post (Newspaper) Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Steam Ship Company wanted to prevent concessions made on the ferries from being transferred to its fleet of more than 60 ships. The late Gerry Evans, former secretary of the Seamen’s Union, provides a colourful view of disputes with Railways during his term in his book, Where Giants Dwell. His first negotiation related to what was called the rail ferries out-port agreement, which involved crews being flown at Railways’ expense from where they lived to work on the ferry. “This agreement was costing Railways millions of dollars in airfares,” he wrote. “I had no sympathy with members who wanted to go to sea who chose to live hundreds of miles from a port. “We had members with farms and motels in the country posing as militants, screaming that they were entitled to have their fares paid wherever they lived.” An outcome of the negotiation was change a in the system, but Gerry Evans records, “we drove a hard bargain.”  Ray Munro considers the existence of so many different industrial organisations – originally five – created what he described as “industrial jealousy”.  “I am convinced that this jealousy used to be generated to a large degree by the ship’s company being closeted together in the tight-knit confines of a ship,” he said. “It is unfortunate that under these circumstances, men are apt to spend a good deal of their time plotting and scheming as to how they can improve their conditions to the level of others on board.” NZ History on Line says that though there has not been a major strike since 1994, the editor of New Zealand Marine News chuckled at public reaction to a brief dispute in September 2003. “Despite this ten-year strike-free period, passengers interviewed on television complained vociferously as if such disputes were still frequent and recent.”    1994 Stands Out as the Most Bitter Ferry Dispute The 1994 stand-off between the maritime unions and Tranz Rail stands out in John McLeod’s mind as the most bitter and divisive industrial action of his long career.  “It was a terrible dispute,” the former General Secretary of the Merchant Service Guild recalls. “There’s still a lot of animosity there today – and it’s something that the current management have to deal with. “The sad thing is, it didn’t have to go that way.”  The dispute followed the sale of the rail and ferry business to 44

the Fay Richwhite-led consortium and pitted the unions against the new owners, Tranz Rail. The company was determined to reduce costs, achieve efficiencies and win the right to have ferries sail 24 hours a day. Negotiations were protracted and antagonistic. The unions took exception to the hard-nosed approach of the company and the use by Tranz Rail of former Labour Cabinet Minister Richard Prebble as a consultant. The dispute escalated to the extent that Tranz Rail prepared lock-out notices and threatened to bring in alternative Australian crews – scabs in union terminology. In his book Where Giants Dwell, Seararer’s Union Secretary Gerry Evans recalled: “The ferries would run 24 hours, that had to come, and was in our long-term interest, with the possibility of non-union ships in competition running a 24 hour service against the ferries. “We ended up with 90 days sick leave, increased from five. To balance this, we lost annual leave, with a three-year buy back, worth $23,000 to each seaman.” More Than 150 of Nearly 500 Crew Jobs Disappeared Gerry Evans records how the union sought to gain the moral high ground by stating publicly that its members would not disrupt ferry services during the approaching school holidays. “We stole the moral high ground from the employer,” he wrote. “Railways could not promise not to lock us out and keep the ferries running. “It posed a perplexing problem for the country’s editorial writers. “Conditioned over the years to condemning the unions for ferry stoppages, they found it hard to blame the employer for the same tactics.” “There are people there who will never forget the way the issuing of lock-out notices was handled,” says John McLeod. “It makes it very difficult for today’s management.”  He said there were stories circulating at the time that if the union members sailed the ferries out into Wellington harbour so that they couldn’t be loaded, the Government had SAS troops on stand-by to helicopter out to them.  He maintains that had the alternative “scab” crews been used, the ships would never have sailed because union members would have ensured they couldn’t.

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

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Ferry Food a Successful Transition from Mince to Butter Chicken The Cook Strait ferries’ journey from mince on toast to butter chicken hasn’t been an easy one, but if you ask the passengers, they’ll tell you it’s been a successful one. Retail Manager Michelle Hobson would like to go further, but she’s aware that Interislander has to stay in touch with what people want. “Fish and chips are still far and away our biggest seller,” she says. “It’s a dilemma really - occasionally we get people asking us why we’re not providing up-market café food. “The reality is that the majority of people are looking for comfort food of the good, standard New Zealand variety.” Catering on the early ferries has become the stuff of legend. The website NZ History on Line describes a 1962 photo spread in the Weekly News showing happy ferry passengers being served by a white-jacketed steward behind “one of three horseshoe counters from which snack meals are served”. “Reality usually fell far short of those cheesy publicity shots,” reports the website. “David Johnson recalled that passengers took their chances with unappealing food items such as savoury mince, pies and sandwiches with bread curling on the edges that were ‘handed over rather than served’. “A former crewman described a steward spreading butter with his fingers because he was too lazy to find a knife.” Mince on toast and beetroot sandwiches in white bread are meals remembered with amusement by a generation of ferry passengers. Change came in the early 1990s with the rebranding of the business from SeaRail. Former Marketing Manager Peter Lawson remembers the aim was to broaden the range and improve the quality of both food and service. He says the reaction from some staff was far from enthusiastic. “One chief steward told me it was a waste of time and money moving away from pies and sandwiches and introducing a wider range of food.” he says. “We had a lot of arguments with the staff. “A year or so later I was on the particular ferry and the same 46

chief steward came up to me,” he said. “The problem was, he told me, we’d made the café areas too small. “I reminded him of his previous opposition and to his credit he conceded he’d been wrong.” Today the aim is to provide passengers with their old favourites like fish and chips along with a range of alternatives such as chilli con carne, butter chicken and lasagne. In New Zealand there’s no escaping the humble pie. Michelle Hobson says the fact that more than 55,000 are sold each year proves their enduring popularity. She says Interislander catering staff visit food fairs and cafes looking for ideas. But in implementing those ideas, they have to be conscious of what people want. “We do try tweaking some dishes,” she says. “For example as well as the tried and true fish and chips served in a cardboard box, we have an alternative crumbed fillet with chips and a mesculin salad. “We work at taking standard comfort food and look at what we can do to make it modern and funky.” Michelle has been working with Interislander’s retail business for five years. She brings a wide range of experience that started with management training at Pizza Hutt and has included running her own restaurant, working in catering companies and working in Australia. “I have enjoyed the freedom I’ve had to grow and evolve the job and make positive changes,” she says. One of the growth areas has been the development of premium lounges like Kaitaki Plus which have their own specialised catering requirements. In the standard café areas, sandwiches, rolls and cakes remain extremely popular. Where making these was once outsourced, Interislander now has its own production kitchen which produces all packaged food for the ferries. Here too, passengers’ tastes are conservative and traditional. Michelle has tried baguettes with limited success while bacon and egg remains the most popular sandwich. No prizes for guessing the most popular slice – chocolate caramel.

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S


THE LYNX Fast Ferries Introduced Colour, Drama and Technology to Cook Strait The introduction of fast ferries between Wellington and Picton in 1994 brought colour, competition and drama to Cook Strait. It triggered a decade of what is often described as the “ferry wars” - a battle of technology and marketing. “In the beginning, a trip on the Lynx (Tranz Rail’s Interisland Line fast ferry) took little more than an hour and a half,” says Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis. “That effectively halved the time it took to cross Cook Strait. “Passengers loved the faster trip but they also loved the advanced technology and the idea they were part of something new and exciting.” The Interisland seagull was the visual centerpiece of the Tranz Rail advertising campaign. In television commercials, a family of seagulls perched on the bow of the vessel and then hung on for dear life as its speed increased. Wellington got its first taste of fast ferries in 1992 when the high-speed alloy catamaran Patricia Olivia visited Wellington as 48

part of a re-fuelling stop on a journey to South America. During her brief stay, she sailed a demonstration trip to the South Island, proving that a fast ferry could operate effectively on Cook Strait. The “ferry wars” broke out when Christchurch businessman and original Pacifica Shipping founder Brook McKenzie formed Sea Shuttles NZ in mid-1994 and announced his intention to introduce a fast ferry to Cook Strait. The new owner of the ferry business, Tranz Rail responded to Brook McKenzie’s challenge by chartering the English -based Holyman Ltd vessel, Condor 10. Condor 10 was built by Incat in Tasmania, the same company that produced the Patricia Olivia. Condor 10 came to Wellington after completing her British Channel Islands service. She was renamed the Lynx and painted in the familiar Interisland Line colours. In spite of hitting what was thought to be a whale on her delivery voyage in December, she was cleared to enter service before Christmas. Brook McKenzie was not so fortunate with his charter, the 96-metre mono-hull Albayzin. The vessel was built in Spain in 1994 and was said to be capable of carrying 450 passengers, 76

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

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cars and travelling at 37 knots. But Albayzin was originally designed for the Mediterranean and didn’t adapt well to Cook Strait when she eventually arrived in Wellington after problems with sea trials and a delayed departure from Spain. Her service was a stop-start affair, punctuated by engine problems, groundings and terminal problems. For much of her charter, Albayzin was tied up in Wellington. Service was suspended at the beginning of March and she left Wellington to return to Spain in June 1995. In her first year of service, the Lynx made 686 crossings, carried 212,334 passengers and 34,195 motor vehicles. Only four per cent of sailings were cancelled. Her performance earned the Interisland Line a tourism award the following year and a continuation of the service through to 1999-2000 when she was replaced with the even faster Condor Vitesse. At times, Cook Strait’s weather tested the Lynx’s capability, earning her the description, “vomit comet”. Heavy seas in both 1997 and 1998 disrupted sailings. During one sailing in March 1998, the vessel damaged her bow in heavy seas and was out of action for five days. AU G U S T, 2 0 1 2

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“ At times, Cook Strait’s weather tested the Lynx’s capability, earning her the description, “vomit comet”. Heavy seas in both 1997 and 1998 disrupted sailings.” Competition to the Lynx returned in the form of the 31-metre Strait runner, operated from Mana, north of Wellington, by new company North South Ferries Ltd. The vessel arrived in Wellington in December 1995 and made demonstration runs around Wellington harbour. She made a successful maiden crossing on 19th December but problems with the weather and the tidal bar at the entrance to Porirua harbour hampered sailings. Financial problems compounded until North South Ferries went into receivership in May. A successor, Cook Strait Sea Cat Ferries, using the 24-metre Te Hukatai, had a similar short life in 1999. But in the same year, Brook McKenzie returned to Cook Strait with a more serious competitor to the Interisland Line - Fast Cat Ferries in which he was a minor shareholder. Top Cat was 96 metres long and capable of carrying 600 passengers. She came from Incat Australia in Hobart and operated briefly on Bass Strait before sailing to New Zealand. The weather was relatively kind and by the end of her first year, Top Cat had completed 1,694 crossings. One of the few mishaps 50

was losing a car that rolled through a barrier and off the back of the vessel. She returned for a second season but in October 2000 services were cancelled. Increasing fuel costs and speed limitations, particularly in the Marlborough Sounds, contributed to the decision. In 2000, Interisland Line chartered the 98-metre Incat 057 for a year-round service. In was followed in 2003 by Incat 046, the last fast ferry to operate on Cook Strait. Rising Fuel Prices and Wake Issues Dealt to Fast Ferries Rising fuel prices and speed restrictions in confined waters cut short fast ferry operations on Cook Strait. For a decade from 1994, ferries like the Lynx and Top Cat brought speed and style to what had previously been relatively staid conventional Cook Strait ferry operations. But by 2000, the tide was turning on the so-called vomit comets. Fuel prices were rising along with environmental consciousness of the damage caused by ferry wake.

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“By January it was becoming clear that 2005 would be the last year of the fast ferry operation,” wrote author Victor Young in his book, Strait Crossing. “Engine problems, the weather and speed restrictions had taken a heavy toll on public support.” In 2000 the Marlborough District Council imposed an 18knot speed restriction between Picton and the entrance to Tory Channel. The Wellington Harbourmaster had earlier imposed a speed restriction in the harbour to reduce ferry wash. “The fast ferry offered only a 45 minute advantage over the transit time of the conventional vessels,” Victor Young wrote. “Passengers often arrived at the fast ferry to find that their departure had been cancelled at short notice.”

“ 2000, the tide was turning on the so-called vomit comets. Fuel prices were rising along with environmental consciousness of the damage caused by ferry wake.”

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CONGRATULATIONS ON 50 YEARS INTERISLANDER. IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE TO WORK WITH YOU. LONG MAY IT CONTINUE. We carry out engineering work on board all three interislander ships - usually consisting of maintainence, repairs and alterations as required. Our workshop and field based is on-call 24/7.

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I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

HANG ON! Seagull Image an Enduring Memorial to Fast Ferry Success

Many New Zealanders remember the Interisland Line’s fast ferry the Lynx for its quirky seagull-branded marketing. The Line’s Group Marketing Manager at the time, Pete Lawson, recalls it was born out of necessity. “We were faced with the situation that we had no vessel to photograph - and we wouldn’t until she arrived,” he says. “And when she arrived, she was scheduled to go into service very quickly.” Peter Lawson and his team briefed their advertising agency and asked them to come up with something that delivered a message about speed, personality and friendliness. The target audience was travellers and families. The agency came up with the seagull branding, used in a wide range of advertisements but best remembered for the television commercial in which a seagull family is plucked one by one from the bow of the Lynx by the vessel’s increasing speed, despite their attempts to hang on. The vessel was named Condor 10 but Tranz Rail was looking for something more distinctive and in keeping with her new role. “We researched the name and came up with several options,” says Peter Lawson. “The Lynx worked well - not only did it emphasise speed, but it had the added connotation of joining the North and South Islands.” For the first season the Interisland Line relied on an English

Master who wasn’t used to Wellington’s weather. During the Lynx’s sea trials before the first journey, there had been a northerly blowing and the captain was delighted with the way she was handling. Then on the night before the first journey, it turned to a southerly. For the inaugural voyage, the Lynx was carrying a number of dignitaries and journalists. “This was before speed restrictions were introduced in the harbour. The Lynx was bowling along at a great clip when she went through the heads and met the swell. “She hit the first wave, bounced and came down with a crash. People were falling over, shouting and screaming. It was threatening to be a disaster from a media point of view. “Fortunately, once the Master realised what had happened, he throttled back and the rest of the journey was relatively normal.” Peter Lawson looks back with considerable satisfaction at the impact the fast ferries made before speed restrictions in confined waters eroded their competitive advantage. But one initiative linked to the fast ferries didn’t go as well - an attempt to introduce a Picton to Christchurch train that met the Lynx. “We tried it for a summer season but with some significant track heat buckles and speed restrictions keeping it to schedule was a nightmare and it was discontinued the next year,” he recalls.

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back in time

Marine Superintendent Sees Evolution from Rail to Shipping Company Julian lilico

Julian Lillico worked for the Cook Strait ferry business for 26 of its 50 years. In that time he saw it evolve from being an adjunct of the railway to, in his view, a shipping company. “When I first came aboard, we weren’t a shipping company,” he says. “By the time I left in 2002, we were.” Julian Lillico first worked on the ferries in 1976 as a Third Officer. After a period commanding a ferry, he was appointed Marine Superintendent in 1992. He recalls that during the early 1990s, the service started to feel like a shipping company. “A respected European shipping consultant was engaged to study how we were run both ashore and afloat,” he says. By 1994, ownership had passed to Tranz Rail and with it came changes in manning and work rosters to enable the ships to complete six crossings a day rather than four. Soon after came the era of fast ferries in which Julian Lillico played a significant role in the investigation of technical training, documentation and operations. “It was an interesting and exciting time which also enabled the

additional promotion of Masters and Chief Engineers,” he recalls. “Morale on the fast ferry was very high and I believe that, because the establishment of the high speed service showed that the newly privatised company was moving ahead, the conventional ships were similarly affected.” Changes were also occurring in the regulatory side of shipping, both within New Zealand and internationally. “Previously the ships had been surveyed and checked by the New Zealand Ministry of Transport,” he says. “This all changed and a completely new regime was brought in where we were surveyed by a Classification Society, in our case Det Norske Veritas.  “Masters had to assume much more responsibility for the administration of their ships.” The Maritime Safety Authority was also established. One of their first tasks was to draft New Zealand Maritime Rules to reflect the requirements of international conventions, such as SOLAS. “It was my task to see that these rules were implemented in the ships and also make submissions as to their content when drafted,’ Julian says. “In 1998 we implemented the International Code for Safe Ship Management (ISM) as well as ISO 9000. “The ISM Code brought about many changes in how we documented procedures and responsibilities. “We had become a shipping company!”

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I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

back in time

The 1980s: Creating a Ferry Service Where Passengers Mattered charles Russell

Work done in the late 1980s paved the way for the emergence of the modern Interislander. Much of it was based on advice from London-based transport consultancy firm Steer Davies Gleave. Charles Russell is a Director of the firm and spent time in Wellington working with the management and staff of New Zealand Rail and what was then SeaRail. He recalls the period and the changes that transformed the ferry service. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. Remember New Zealand in the mid-80s – when the country rushed helter-skelter from the closed-on-Sundays caricature to the vibrant modern multicultural society the country became?  Remember Gloss – New Zealand television’s short-lived answer to Dallas, with shoulder pads and skullduggery on Queen Street? That’s when I, and the team from Steer Davies Gleave, arrived at the Brick Building (Railway Station) to help NZR’s Rail Freight General Manager Francis Small and his team put together a new strategy for what was then known as the SeaRail ferry service. Gosh – how different that was from today’s Interislander. It was an extension to NZR’s freight rail network –passengers would be carried if they weren’t in the way and schedules observed so long as the freight trains had arrived. As for trucks—unwelcome as they competed with the railway. Marketing? It amounted to interviews on the local radio with a captain, talking about how rough the Strait was that day – and yes if you were stupid enough to use it, you would be SICK. On-board haute cuisine? A beetroot sandwich in processed white bread. I promise you. But why bother to make money from the on board facilities – it was so hard to track it because the cash machines were broken Operationally, of course, it was well planned and safe – but staffing, terms and conditions, industrial relations? I had a birthday while my family and I were in Wellington – and all our friends in Wadestown helped me celebrate. The piece de resistance?  A cake shaped like the Arahanga – green with the icing running to see the brown cake underneath, and listing slowly into the rough blue sea. It struck a chord with our guests. But there was real commitment to move forward – both within New Zealand Railways and across at SeaRail itself. Led by the inimitable Ivan Gough - memorable for many things and terrifying if you ever drove with him across the Rimutaka Hill to his home in Carterton - the SeaRail management team welcomed us – and helped us as we explored what the service was and how it worked. As a consultant, an occupational hazard is an assignment where you are appointed by senior management – and fought every inch of the way by the operations team. But this was one of the most co-operative jobs I think I have ever been involved with. Antagonism was limited to the teasing we would get over the Friday afternoon fridge about our curious language, unfamiliarity with some of the minutiae of the local ferry trade, and, of course, the ineptitude of the Northern Hemisphere rugby teams. And what did the team achieve?  Together we put together a

“ ....That’s when I, and the team from Steer Davies Gleave, arrived at the Brick Building (Railway Station) to help NZR’s Rail Freight General Manager Francis Small and his team put together a new strategy for what was then known as the Searail ferry service.” strategy which was supported and delivered over the next years. Some things were done immediately; others were gradually addressed over a longer period. But the management teams at InterIslander and at New Zealand Rail worked together to build the ferry service which we have seen over the last 25 years. • For the first time, a professional team was hired to look at the branding of the service. It wasn’t just willful to change the name – and paint the ferries white. • The balance of the business was changed – now management focused on passengers as much as cargo. This involved introducing a prime user cost based allocation of costs between the passenger and rail services. • There was extensive work on the passenger spaces on the Arahura and the Aratika – with the architect Ian Athfield leading the design – and the introduction of new bars, restaurants and conference facilities • A new reservation system was put in place – and a commercial pricing policy was instigated. Indeed the work carried out here for the ferry was further extended in looking at the land passenger services as well. • The manning and industrial relations issues were ultimately addressed – and the crewing levels and annual hours worked brought more into line with international practice. Through my career, there have been few occasions where the work we have assisted with and the strategies we have helped develop have been so enthusiastically embraced – and we are all proud to see how the new Interislander service has operated over the last 25 years.

back in time

From Overseas Expert to Maritime Regulator Russell Kilvington - A Personal Story

Back in 1988, Russell Kilvington was a member of the team from London-based transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave who advised on ways to improve what was then known as SeaRail. It wasn’t quite a case of liking the company so much he bought it, as falling in love with New Zealand and going on to head the Maritime Safety Authority. In 1988, I was both a Director of Steer Davies Gleave (SDG) and part of the study on SeaRail which Charles Russell has described. I echo all he writes, albeit with my own specific gastronomic reflection of on-board cuisine highlights being mince on toast.  Was this a deliberate ploy to assist regurgitation on rough crossings? But I am writing this contribution from a personal perspective, as this single study changed my own life in a way that nothing ever had done both to that date or would do since.   As you easily detect in Charles’s writings, the team from SDG liked the country and its people from the outset.  This, together with requests for consultancy assistance both from elsewhere within New Zealand Railways and from several other transport organisations, brought about the establishment of SDG (New Zealand) later the same year.  Working with a small resident team, Charles and I began a regular series of visits between London and Wellington to undertake a wide variety of assignments.  One of the first, following on from the main SeaRail study was to assess the idea of a fast ferry service across Cook Strait.  The technology for such craft was still in its infancy at this

time and we were talking about very small passenger only vessels that would have been dwarfed alongside the likes of Arahura. Customer research showed the New Zealand public were quick to grasp this concept and would need several more years before, by then, rather more appropriate vessels were to emerge on the scene. Every time I boarded a plane at Auckland to return to the Northern Hemisphere after such assignments, I increasingly questioned why I was leaving godzone.  Finally, after completing my 12th round trip, I put my name on the New Zealand job market and waited for developments.  How extraordinary then, given that first link to New Zealand, that my 25th single journey in November 1993 would be oneway, becoming the first CEO and Director of the Maritime Safety Authority (now Maritime New Zealand).  And so began over 13 years as, amongst many other things, the national regulator of Interislander services - a task not without many moments of healthy tension and robust debate about maritime safety and the marine environment.   But a task also that never failed to remind me of how, in global terms, just one small transport link in a relatively remote corner of the world, had changed my life forever. And yes, just in case, you are wondering, I would do it all again in just the same way if offered a second chance. Happy birthday and congratulations to Interislander for 50 years of safe and clean seas.  I’m pleased to have shared so much of the most recent 25!

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New Ground broken with Rope-less Mooring Interislander and its predecessors changed the nature of freight and passenger transport when roll-on-roll-off vessels were introduced to Cook Strait. It also broke new ground in port operations by being the first to use rope-less mooring techniques. The business led the way in the introduction of MoorMaster™ vacuum pads which instead of ropes, secures and releases ships in just seconds. The innovative technology makes mooring ships safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. MoorMaster™ also holds ships in place more effectively than conventional mooring techniques.  The technology is now used to moor different types of ship at ports all around the world including Australia, Canada, Denmark and Oman.  Interislander began its association with MoorMaster™ back in 1997, when the company ordered four ship-based units for the KiwiRail Aratere ferry on the Picton – Wellington service.  Four years later, in another pioneering move, Interislander tested the world’s first berth-mounted MoorMaster™, also with the Aratere. With the introduction of the longer Kaitaki ferry in 2005, two additional MoorMaster™ units installed at Picton avoided the cost of extending the pier by at least 60 meters. Two further MoorMaster™ units were added to the rail berth in Wellington in 2011. This followed a major refit of the Aratere that saw the ship lengthened by 30 metres. To handle the new, longer Aratere using conventional mooring techniques would have meant extending the berth – a cost avoided by using MoorMaster™.

MoorMaster™ is made by Cavotec, a leading global engineering group developing innovative technologies that enable the airports, ports and maritime, mining and tunnelling, and general industry sectors to operate more sustainably. Visit to find out more. “Our thanks to Interislander and all our partners involved in these projects for realising the benefits that MoorMaster™ has to offer, and here’s to the next 50 years’ pioneering thinking on the Cook Strait,” said the firm.

AU G U S T, 2 0 1 2


WASTE MANAGEMENT > Transpacific Waste Management congratulates the Interislander as they celebrate their 50 year Anniversary. We are proud to be their recycling and waste service provider and look forward to continuing to work together.

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Congratulations Interislander on 50 Years of service from all the team at Rush Munro.

Arrow Uniforms congratulates the Interislander on their 50th Anniversary. We look forward to keeping you looking good for the


next 50 years! First impressions count. Creating the right atmosphere by dressing you appear and help you succeed anywhere.


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like a professional will inspire your clients with confidence by how

Masters and Engineers Here at Interislander, we have some pretty special people running things behind the scenes. We talk to Kaitaki Master Mike Swatridge, Chief Engineer on Kaitaki Bryan Anderson and Veteran Chief Engineer Johann Schubert.

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Masters and Engineers

from the bridge The Boy who Ran Away to Sea – a captain’s story

PHOTO: Suzanne Knibbeler

Aratere Master Mike Swatridge provides the classic tale of running away to sea – although not to become a cabin boy. Born in England, he fell in love with New Zealand, married a New Zealander and stayed. As he approaches retirement later this year, he looks back on his career. The reason I first went to sea was to literally get away from home. Unfortunately my childhood consisted of several foster homes which were not that nice, brought about by my mother dying of polio during the epidemic of the 1950s when I was only four. I took and passed my GCEs and ended up head boy which I needed to enter the Warsash Pre-Sea School in Southampton. I managed to get a cadetship with the Port Line which operated 64

one of the original “home boats” running mainly to the United States, Australia and New Zealand. These trips would last anything from four months to my longest being 13 months but then I was single and seeing the world. I had fallen in love with New Zealand from the first time I arrived and so with a brand new Mate’s ticket and after a brief period on the British coasters to save money, I arrived in New Zealand at the tender age of 21 in 1967. It was while working on the Maori running to Lyttelton that I met my wife and we married in 1970. Val had never been overseas and to fulfil her dream I was able to work my passenger fare on the Southland Star back to the UK. In order to keep the money rolling in, I took several jobs on British coasters running as far afield as the Mediterranean in the capacity of anything from Second Mate to Mate. This period in my life was a real eye-opener as far as seamanship goes, especially running up and down the English Channel in thick fog.

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

Masters and Engineers

“ I had fallen in love with New Zealand from the first time I arrived and so with a brand new Mate’s ticket and after a brief period on the British coasters to save money, I arrived in New Zealand at the tender age of 21 in 1967.” One year later it was another return passage with Blue Star to New Zealand. While I was away, The Union Steam Ship Company had been drastically reduced and consequently there was no work. Here I was with a young family, no money and no work. I applied to every single company in New Zealand and ended up working night shift at a cable factor. This sorry state lasted three months when Union Company came up trumps and I was back at sea. This lasted three months when Air-Sea Services, as they were then known, offered me a job as Third Mate. I always remember being interviewed by Dudley Neil the Marine Superintendent and him telling me that at the present rate of expansion, within two decades there would be 14 and a half ships on the run. Plenty of promotions, but how would the 14 and a half ships get through Tory Channel entrance? I joined the Aramoana on October 10 1972. I had managed to work my way to Chief Officer by 1974 and by careful calculations worked out that it would be 1995 before I would get a command. Nobody left and nobody retired so 21 years later, I was finally offered command. Around this 1995 period, there was tremendous upheaval in the company. It had always been my dream to sail around the world and with a push from my wife, I could now see the opportunity arise. I was offered redundancy which I took and started looking for a yacht to achieve this.  We were away six years. When we returned, we took the boat back to Nelson and while Val slaved bringing it back up to scratch for selling, I busied myself getting my ticket re-validated. It was at this time I received a call from the Interisland Line asking if I would go Master on the Purbeck. The ship became the favourite amongst the truckies because it had single individual cabins and the most important thing of all – good food.

The lessons learned on Purbeck were of great value on the Kaitaki. Her arrival meant the end of the Purbeck and she was finally sold to a South American ferry company. People have often asked if there are stories to be told and believe me in the total of 30 odd years, there are some real doozies – like the time Mike Perfect who was Mate of the Aramoana ordered the ABs (seaman) to paint the dog kennels. Being conscientious, they not only painted the outside but the inside as well. Unfortunately for Mike, there was a dog show in Wellington that weekend and a beautifully shampooed and combed prize poodle ended up bright green. Imagine having to confront the owner. This happened only a couple of months after Mike had to explain to a passenger that the car that had been sitting in the car garage was no longer there. The Aramoana had taken a massive roll and the car that was parked athwart ships had broken through the door and railings and over the side. I do not know how the owner crammed in all the luggage but he claimed there was a brand new set of golf clubs and even a new colour television set inside. How could you prove otherwise with the car sitting on the bottom of the ocean? And there was the time on the Aramoana when we were carrying a circus south and the ship was delayed by over an hour. The circus was transporting an elephant on the back of a truck but unfortunately it was too high to drive around the front end of the ship and got stuck. The elephant refused to kneel and so the only way around the problem was to let the truck tyres down. Problem solved and the elephant was finally manoeuvred into position. I am retiring in October, drawing to a close a career at sea which I have always enjoyed and if I had my time over again, would make the same decisions.

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Masters and Engineers

Fast Ferries Highlight of a ‘Collier to Cruise Liner’ Career Chief Engineer on Kaitaki Bryan Anderson has more than 30 years’ experience on Cook Strait ferries. A family connection with the sea going back several generations made his career choice predictable. In this interview, he talks about what the Chief Engineer’s job involves and details a career that included colliers and cruise liners before settling on the Cook Strait ferries.

What attracted you to the sea? My father was born in Hull in England in 1912 and came from a family all involved in the fishing industry - in fact my grandmother listed her occupation in a 1910 census as a “herring splitter” which is someone who splits herrings to make kippers. My father’s father came from Nova Scotia in Canada and was a seaman on merchant ships, and his father was an English Sea Captain on sailing ships. So the “sea” was in my blood. My father wanted me to join the New Zealand Navy which I attempted to do as an Engineer Artificer but my maths at the time let me down so I decided to do my apprenticeship as an engineering fitter and join the merchant navy. What was the route you took? In June 1959 I started my apprenticeship at the Woburn railway workshops for a 10,000 hour apprenticeship as a fitter. That included six month periods working on all types of railway machinery including steam locomotives. During the last year of my apprenticeship I attended evening classes at the McKenzie Marine College in Wellington and obtained my third Marine Steam ticket. I completed my apprenticeship in May 1963 and a week later I joined the Union Steam Ship as fourth Engineer on the old Rangatira. The Union Steam Ship Company at this time had about 72 ships in its fleet and so I was only there one week before I was transferred to Auckland to join a collier called the Kaitoa. I was with the Union Company until 1966 and served on about seven ships visiting ports in Australia, the Pacific Islands, Malaysia, Canada and the USA. My most memorable times during this period included obtaining my second class marine ticket, standing by the building of two new vessels in Hong Kong and sailing on the Waihemo and Waitamata which were the last two steam reciprocating vessels in the Union Company fleet. I left the Union Company in 1966 to join Manners Navigation of Hong Kong as 2nd engineer. I stayed for six months to get my motor time so that I could obtain a first Class Steam and Motor qualification. When did you become a chief engineer? I joined the Shaw Saville Line at the end of 1966 having got most of my First Class ticket in New Zealand - except for the electrotechnology paper which I missed because I had been partying too hard. I completed this ticket in Southampton in

England and because I did the orals on Steam and Motor I obtained a Dual Steam and Motor certificate. I joined S.S.& A. in Wellington on their passenger ship, the Northern Star as extra third engineer and on the vessel’s arrival in England, I was promoted to intermediate second engineer. There were a total of about 30 engineers and electricians on this vessel and thus there were three engineers in each rank. The vessel carried 1500 passengers and we did round-the-world, three- month trips from Southampton via South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, The Panama Canal, the West Indies, Portugal and back to Southampton. After a year on this vessel I was promoted to senior second engineer and in 1970 I was transferred to the company’s other passenger ship, the Ocean Monarch as staff chief engineer where I was responsible for a team of people looking after the hotel services. Whilst on the Northern Star I met my wife Veronica on-board during a cruise to Japan and we have now been married 40 years. I left Shaw Saville in 1973 and joined Blue Port Act as their engineer manager leaving that job in 1979 to join the Aramoana as third engineer. I have served on Aranui, Aratika and Arahanga and was promoted to first engineer about two years after joining the company. In 1994 the company asked for volunteers to man the new fast ferries. I applied and was then promoted to chief engineer. What do you like about your job? I enjoy the daily challengers and problem solving that arises from running an engine room and all the other equipment on a large vessel. I also enjoy the comradeship that you get from sailing with other engineers and seafarers. What do you regard as your biggest challenge? I think the biggest challenge is people management - running a successful team where everyone is made to feel that they are worthwhile and valued and where everyone gets along with one other. Describe your work routine? I join the vessel at 0700 hrs on a Wednesday and live on the vessel for one week leaving the vessel at 0800 hrs on the following Wednesday. My days on board run from 0600 to 1800 hrs but the chief engineer is also on call during the night for any unusual happenings.



Another way to start your holiday. Drinks available onboard.

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Masters and Engineers

ABOVE: The extended fleet in Wellington harbour during the early years. INSET: John Clark in front of a fast ferry.

One of my main tasks is to be in attendance in the engine control room whilst the vessel is in confined waters in case of machinery failure. This normally occupies about five hours out of the 12-hour day. The other main tasks are organising shore-side contractors, answering emails, ordering spare parts, making sure there is enough fuel on-board and that it is being burnt efficiently, making sure that the hotel services are all working so that our passengers are going to have a good experience whilst on-board and making sure that the planned maintenance system is up to date and relevant. Was there a particular time in your career that sticks in your mind? I enjoyed the nine or so years that I spent with the fast ferry service. Myself and the late Captain John Clark were sent away each year to attend the dry-dock of the ferry that we were going to charter. We then did the on-hire of the vessel and delivered it to New Zealand - normally taking about 24 days to do the delivery voyage. We organised everything from crew allowances to hotels and the storing of the vessel prior to sailing. It was a challenging experience but was also enjoyable and rewarding. What do you do in your spare time? My spare time is taken up with work on a beach home my wife and I have at Waikanae. I enjoy fishing, gardening and watching cricket and rugby. We also enjoy walking because Waikanae is nice and flat.


“ I enjoyed the nine or so years that I spent with the fast ferry service. Myself and the late Captain John Clark were sent away each year to attend the dry-dock of the ferry that we were going to charter.�

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Port Marlborough congratulates Interislander on achieving their 50 year milestone PICTON Picton is the heart of the stunning Marlborough Sounds and gateway to the South Island. Picton provides a safe harbour to the Interislander fleet and offers everything necessary to accommodate the needs of ferry travellers.

PORT MARLBOROUGH Port Marlborough provides wharf and terminal infrastructure for the Interislander including engineering expertise and maintenance support; 24/7 security and Picton Harbour Radio services. We have worked with Interislander for the last 50 years and are proud our facilities and services have enabled growth and facilitated the change of the Interislander’s fleet over this time. Port Marlborough also provides facilities for log exports, cruise ships, marine farming, fishing, tourism and recreational boating within a safe and naturally deep harbour.

For more information please visit our website at

Masters and Engineers

Veteran Chief Engineer Literally ‘Bumped’ into New Zealand Veteran Chief Engineer Johann Schubert goes by the name Butzi on Aratere. He has worked on the Cook Strait ferries since 1967. Born in England, he was working for a small family-owned company when his ship ran aground off Timaru. My career at sea started in the late 1950s with the Hain Steamship Company in Britain. At the time this was a family business based in Falmouth, Cornwall and all the ships’ names started with the prefix “Tre” - this is similar to the “Ara” on Interislander ferries. The Trevaylor took me to the USA, Japan, a small island in the Pacific called Makatea, Canada and then back to London. This lasted ten and a half months but, unlike today’s container ships, a lot of time was spent alongside for loading or discharging cargo. In those days, the question, “what do you like about being sea?” usually brought the response, “being in port!” The voyage on the Treneglos in 1964 was the first time I hit New Zealand – literally. The ship ran aground just off Timaru, shortly after departing for Dunedin, and was hard and fast for about three days. Once the just-loaded cargo, consisting largely of bales of wool, had been discharged (over the side), the ship floated off the rocks and was towed to Wellington for some much needed repairs in the Jubilee Floating Dock. It was from this vantage point that we would look over the side and watch the Aramoana being discharged and loaded: rail wagons being shunted in and out and cars being driven on board by their owners! It was really something to write home about. By now the “big boys” were closing in on Hains and several mergers and takeovers saw the company swallowed up by P & O. My final deep sea ship was the Duhallow, a 42,000 ton bulk carrier built at Fairfields in Glasgow at the same time as the ‘Wahine. By this time, being at sea literally meant ‘being at sea’! Turnaround time for this ship was two to three days but there were some advantages when compared with the “Tre” ships. Service was nine months on and three months off; wives were allowed to accompany their husbands; there was a swimming pool and a cinema. What luxury!! Unfortunately, the two to three days in port were the busiest times for the engineer officers as this was the only time that maintenance could be carried out on the 64,000bhp engine. I joined the Aranui on 13th March 1967, with the words of the then engineering superintendent for Union Steamship Company, Stu Graham, still remembered to this day: “Go down to that ferry. There’s some guy wants time off to get married. I’ll get back to you 70

in a couple of weeks and get you a real ship!” I’m still waiting for him to get back to me! Since the demise of the Union Steam Ship Company it was just as well that one of their “real” ships never eventuated. Over the past many years I have had the privilege of serving on all the rail ferries i.e. ferries that carry rail (The Lynx Service and Kaitaki don’t count – they don’t even have “Ara” in their names). Wives have played a big part in the organisation. Imagine a wife being left alone to look after a growing family for a week (a fortnight in the earlier days), and then having a husband underfoot for the next seven days. With the week-on, week-off concept, this burden is now only borne by a few of the crew on each ship. Engineering and electrical officers have never been in the limelight - until things go wrong. There is no “rogues gallery” with a montage of photos in Head Office and no-one wants to come near them after dealing with overflowing toilets – a regular occurrence of recent times. The complexity of today’s ferries and the increase in paperwork, requires more than just the skills of using a spanner - a common misunderstanding of the job by laymen. The Aramoana had three basic alarms per engine and the monitoring of auxiliary equipment was done by the watch-keeping engineer officer. The Aratere has, as yet, an uncounted number of alarm points, but is well into the thousand. This is all very well, until there is a fault with the monitoring. Whatever happened to simplicity? The 24/7 running of the vessels and reduced manning left the question of maintenance up in the air and the formation of the ‘maintenance engineers and electricians’ team was developed. This is now an integral part of the ships’ crews, largely unappreciated and under-valued, but excellently managed by Alan Houston. The lengthening of the Aratere must go down as the biggest undertaking for the Interislander ferry service. Whatever the outcome of all the political arguments, and once the fine tuning of the power plant has been completed, the benefits to Interislander will gradually evolve and the sceptics may even be convinced that it was the right decision. Good luck Interislander for the next 50 years!

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

Sail your motorhome across Cook Strait

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United Vehicle Rentals congratulates Interislander on 50 years service to motorhome travellers




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Major Advances in Navigational Aids since Aramoana Entered Service In the 50 years since Aramoana first entered service there has been astonishing advances in navigational aids which have made crossing Cook Strait safer and more efficient from an operational point of view. Wellington based firm Wright Technologies, founded 1956, has long been a major player in the marine electronics field, and they pride themselves on fitting and servicing state-of-the-art electronic “glass bridges” on modern vessels. Wrights installed New Zealand’s first AIS system in June 2003, and although soon to become a regulatory requirement, doubt was initially expressed about its benefits. However even hardened mariners soon considered AIS an essential tool. Global acceptance and adoption has been extremely rapid, with current worldwide usage (mid 2012) estimated at nearly 70,000 vessels. AIS is essentially a modern SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) collision avoidance system, and compared with radar and basic GPS, AIS has seven major improvements: • Being a longer wavelength, AIS can “see” targets around islands and capes in coastal waters (microwave radar doesn’t penetrate obstacles). • These targets are automatically translated into ship names and types. • A target’s intentions can be predicted from its course and rate of turn (ROT). • AIS out ranges radar – at sea AIS transponders typically cover to the horizon. • Others are alerted to your vessel’s nature and intentions.


• Only cheap low power transponders are needed (radar is much higher and has intricate moving parts). • Inshore vessel information can be gained- even globally via Internet or Smartphone. The end result can be a graphical display showing details of all AIS-enabled craft within VHF range, along with their course and speed. Shoreside facilities can be more productively managed as well. It’s also useful for marine search and rescue operations (SAR aircraft now increasingly carry it), since it can exactly pinpoint the position of an AIS transmitting ship in distress. The low orbital satellite based ORBCOMM service is now able to AIS monitor open ocean vessels too. Given the open and informative nature of AIS, interest has soared amongst enthusiasts keen to monitor local shipping movements – both ashore and when afloat. An extensive global network of receiving stations continually monitor nearby AIS signals and feed their data to the web. Marine Traffic’s popular global coverage site is intuitively easy to use - just zoom in on your region and click on a ship for its details and track. Aside from PC use, SmartPhones (when within cellular or WiFi range of a server), now also offer portable AIS monitoring, which may be especially convenient for shore side users waiting to meet Interislander passengers.  For more information, visit

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

Congratulations to the Interisland Line on being 50 years young. We hope to keep our business relationship going for many more years. Our business provides professional Pest control, Carpet and Upholstery cleaning services. ZAP is a registered Pest Control Company with PMANZ and all our technicians are fully trained Approved Handlers.

P: 04 5286007 Or 027 6688813 E:

When cruising between the North and South Island, you get to know two iconic New Zealand trademarks at once: the Interislander ferry and Steinlager beer. Over 50 years, they have both made kiwis proud of the ingenuity New Zealanders are well known for. Steinlager was born from a challenge. In 1958, the infamous Black Budget cut beer imports and the challenge was put out to New Zealand brewers to produce a lager of international quality: the response was Steinlager Classic. Steinlager Classic has a robust hop nose of fresh-cut green grass and a full flavour delivered by the green bullet hop, grown in Nelson at 41 degrees latitude, the perfect hopgrowing location. Get a pint or bottle from your Interislander bar, and enjoy the crisp, clean, full flavour of Steinlager Classic. You must be 18 years or older to participate. The Promoter is Lion, 111 Carlton Gore Road, Newmarket, Auckland.


Contact Russell Evans (04) 5288 305 Wellington

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PETONE MOTOR WINDERS & ELECTRICAL LTD Electric and Motor Re-Winding Specialists

Servicing the Interislander line for twenty plus years.

We’ve loved our amazing journey with you. May the smooth sailing continue for another 50 years.

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Proud to supply Interislander for 30 years from a needle to an anchor and everything in between.

P: 04 568 5858 F: 04 568 3295


Holiday parks provide New Zealand’s best leisure accommodation, whether you are a backpacker or a family on holiday. New Zealand holiday parks are found in the country’s most beautiful locations and there is a holiday park to suit every budget and style. I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

Interislander Works to Support its Local Community

©2008 Masanori Udagawa, all rights reserved

Supplying great software to the Interislander for the last 10 years. For systems that deliver an immediate and on-going business advantage. Sandfield builds and evolves systems for customers who need something different.

Over the years Interislander has continued to work with and support a range of individuals and organisations, particularly near the areas they operate in. “We are proud to support initiatives in the Wellington and Marlborough region, after-all, Interislander has become part of the scenery in these areas over the last 50 years as we sail back and forth between the islands,” said Sales and Marketing Manager Gavin Rutherford. These local sponsorships include the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival, Wellington Teddy Bears Picnic, Marlborough Sounds Wilding Pines Control and the Coastguard Central Region. “What is unique about Interislander’s sponsorship approach is that we support a range of activities,” Gavin said. “We like to be involved with various sports, arts and environmental groups within our communities. “Variety is important to us and I know the groups we sponsor appreciate that. “While we support initiatives in the regions we operate in, we AU G U S T, 2 0 1 2

Agility • Certainty • Value Contact us to talk about your systems.


“ It’s a tough job deciding who and what to sponsor – no one likes to say ‘no’, especially when the majority of applications we get are for very worthy causes.” also sponsor a range of national organisations like New Zealand Rowing, Project Jonah and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. “Our sponsorship approach is really about giving back where we can and helping Kiwis reach their destinations on their own journeys, whatever they may be. “When we are approached for sponsorships, we assess them by asking ourselves do they fit with the Interislander brand and values? “It’s a tough job deciding who and what to sponsor – no one likes to say ‘no’, especially when the majority of applications we get are for very worthy causes.” Gavin Rutherford added the positive outcome is amazing feedback and gratitude from the groups Interislander partners with. “Sometimes our help has come at just the right time and has meant a group can continue to operate or has resulted in them reaching their goal, which for us is priceless,” he said.

The New Zealand Merchant Service Guild The NZ Merchant Service Guild is the union representing Masters, Deck Officers and Onboard Services personnel in supervisory positions on the Interislander ferries. In the 1970s, with the Aramoana and Aranui, and subsequent arrival of Arahanga and Aratika, there was a shortage of New Zealand officers and it became necessary to recruit from the UK. In 1974, with the setting up of SCONZ, there was further pressure on the supply of officers.

The New Zealand Merchant Service Guild Industrial Union of Workers Incorporated

Nowadays the industry is facing another officer shortage, this time of worldwide proportions. But the added dimension today is globalisation, which puts increased pressure on local workforces. It is pleasing therefore to see that Interislander is making positive moves towards providing trainee berths for officer cadets. The Guild and the company are working constructively together in an effort to continue the strong supply of high calibre New Zealand officers who are able to navigate the Interislander vessels safely through the wild weather of Cook Strait and busy Tory Channel, well into the future.


I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

Congratulates Interislander on 50 successful years sailing on the Cook Strait SHIP DESIGN • MARINE INTERIORS • SHIP STABILITY CALCULATIONS • ON-SITE SUPERVISION

Since 2004 Lightning Naval Architecture has enjoyed a close working relationship with the Interislander team. Together we have completed over 30 projects working on D.e.v. Arahura, D.e.v. Aretere, and M/S Kaitaki. The scope has included structural engineering, interior design and refit management, ship lengthening, hydrodynamic modelling, implementation of SOLAS safety regulations, stability calculations and new ship concepts. We look forward to working together on many projects in the future and wish Interislander another 50 prosperous years.



QUAY MARINE SHIP REPAIR Congratulations Interislander on a successful first 50 years. We look forward in continuing your journey with you.

If your ships been in a bit of a smash. Come and see us with a pile of cash. We’ll heat it and bash it back into shape. Repaired with lot’s of welding and really strong, sticky tape.

Premium quality and serivce for all your marine fuels and lubricants.

Phone: 04 499 1560 Dock Wharf Rail Ferry Terminal Thorndon, Wellington

P: +61 2 8270 7300 80

I N T E R I S L A N D E R - C E L E B R AT I N G 5 0 Y E A R S

Aratere Extension: One of Interislander’s Most AMBITIOUS Projects Ferry capacity has been increased in the past but last year’s extension of the Aratere at a Singapore shipyard was one of the most ambitious projects in the history of the inter-island service. The ship went to Singapore’s Sembawang shipyard in late April 2011 for an extension that would take six months to complete and add 30 per cent to the ship’s capacity. New Zealanders and Interislander staff followed the progress on a special Facebook site. They were able to see Aratere cut in half and a new 30-metre mid-body inserted. While the ship was in Singapore, a new bow and new stern were fitted, improvements made to the propulsion system as well as improvements to the passenger accommodation. Increasing capacity by adding a new section to a ship isn’t uncommon around the world, but it was a first for the inter-island service. In May 1976, the two year old freight ferry Aratika went to a Hong Kong ship-builder for a conversion to enable her to carry passengers. It was completed in time for her to return to service in December. Author Victor Young in his book Strait Crossing records that, “she was now a totally different ship and one offering the best in passenger comfort and facilities.” Aratere entered service in 1998. Before her appointment in Singapore, she was 150 metres long, could carry 350 passengers, had space for just over 1000 lane metres for vehicles and 425 metres for rail traffic. “Increasing ship size and capacity delivers a number of benefits,”

says Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis. “Bigger ships today mean better productivity. “The new mid-body increases Aratere’s capacity by 300 passengers so our limit is now 650, 28 per cent more rail lane metres and a greater uplift in tonnes, as well as 32 per cent more commercial vehicle space allowing us to carry another 12 to 14 trucks.” The decision to increase Aratere’s capacity grew out of KiwiRail’s 10 year plan to create a financially sustainable rail business. One of the most important elements in the plan was creating the capacity to reliably move goods by rail between Auckland and Christchurch. “Interislander provides that vital link between the North Island Main Trunk line and the Main North Line for premier rail freight services between Auckland and Christchurch,” Thomas continued. “There is no other way to get freight wagons across the Cook Strait, other than on Aratere and Arahura. “With the extended and refurbished Aratere, we will be able to deliver that rail freight – and our other commercial freight and passenger customers – across Cook Strait more efficiently and with extra capacity.” Losing its most important freight ferry for six months was a challenge, both for Interislander and the wider KiwiRail business. The most significant loss was the reduction in capacity to carry rail wagons. Interislander managed to lease the ageing Monte Stello from rival carrier Strait Shipping and to establish transfer stations in Picton and Wellington to move freight from rail wagons to trucks that were then loaded onto the ferries. “It wasn’t an easy time for Interislander, dealing with a big project based in another country and at the same time, trying

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“ We have increased the capacity of the ship, increased its useful working life and improved the productivity of our business.” to maintain freight and passenger services while adjusting to a chartered ship,” says Thomas. The project did not go entirely to plan. Extra costs pushed out the overall cost by approximately 15 per cent to $55 million, the result of the need for extra strengthening and changes to the power and propulsion systems. “We’ve learned a lot from the project,” Thomas added. “But despite the cost increases, we’ve still achieved a good result. “We have increased the capacity of the ship, increased its useful working life and improved the productivity of our business.” Aratere was back in service in mid-November last year. She experienced teething problems with turnaround times and her improved propulsion systems but quickly settled down to a routine of reliable service. a Big Challenge for Interislander Staff Managing the extension of Aratere in Singapore’s Sembawang shipyard was a big challenge for Interislander staff. When KiwiRail Chief Executive Jim Quinn visited the yard, he said he was “in awe” at the scale of the project and the focus of the workers doing the work. “What a terrific job our own team is doing with this,” he said. “It’s exciting to see it come to life.” Interislander’s Marine Projects and Safety Manager Peter Clarke oversaw the project. He said the photographs that came back to New Zealand didn’t do justice to the scale of the job. The new mid-section was lifted by a floating crane, transported to the drydock, and inserted into the 35-metre gap between the forward and stern halves of Aratere. “The whole bow is sheared off and lying in pieces on the dock - it is incredible to see,” he said. “Aratere is now looking more like a ship again. Engineering Manager Peter Mathews described the decks and passenger areas as “swarming with hundreds of workers, all beavering away around the clock under the watchful eye of whitehelmeted supervisors”. “If you walk into it, your senses are attacked by constant noise, dust, fumes, heat and movement as fork trucks, cranes, and people do their thing,” he recalled. Aratere left for Singapore under the command of Captain Mike Swatridge. It was a familiar trip for him - he took the service’s first ferry Aramoana there to the same shipyard for its refit in 1978. A 30-year veteran on the Cook Strait service, he took 24 crew and some contractors on the two-week voyage . Captain Bob Nixon was master during the return voyage. He recalled that Aratere looked different after being “stretched.” “You stand at one end of the cargo deck and look to the other they do look quite long,” he said. “It makes quite a difference. “It takes a lot longer to walk down there now.”

LEFT: The arrival of the new and improved Aratere 82

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Interislander 50th Edition  

To celebrate 50 years of the Interislander ferries

Interislander 50th Edition  

To celebrate 50 years of the Interislander ferries