New Interislander ferry designs unveiled

KiwiRail has unveiled concept designs for a pair of greener, technologically-advanced ferries it plans to roll out within the next five years.

On Wednesday, KiwiRail said the ferries – which would operate as Interislander services on the Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton – would increase capacity for the “vital” transport link.

A request for a proposal to find a preferred shipyard to build the ships was issued on Wednesday.

“The new ships will strengthen and enhance the vital transport link between the North and South Islands and represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the Cook Strait crossing,” KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said.

The concept design for the new Interislander ferry in Wellington Harbour.
OSK-SHIPTECH A/SThe concept design for the new Interislander ferry in Wellington Harbour.

Interislander operates three ferries at the moment, moving about 800,000 people and up to $14 billion worth of road and rail freight between the North and South Islands per year.

A $400m contribution from the Government’s Budget this year had enabled KiwiRail to go out to international tender to build the new ships, it said, which were intended to arrive for service in 2024 and 2025.

The funds would also go towards KiwiRail’s infrastructure at ports in Wellington and Picton.

When the new ships arrive, it will have been more than 25 years since New Zealand last introduced a purpose-built ferry to its fleet.

The concept design of the new ferry in the Marlborough Sounds.
OSK-SHIPTECH A/SThe concept design of the new ferry in the Marlborough Sounds.

Miller said the new ships would be technologically-advanced, produce significantly less carbon emissions, have greater carrying capacity, and provide an enhanced visitor experience.

“Only overseas shipyards have the ability to build ferries of the size and standard needed for the Cook Strait. However, the project also involves new infrastructure including terminals, linkspans, and marshalling yards which will create numerous Kiwi jobs in Picton and Wellington.”

KiwiRail has engaged with a leading ships’ architect to design the ferries. They would be nearly 40 metres longer and at least five metres wider than the current ships.

They would also be able to carry twice as many passengers, 300 per cent more rail wagons and nearly double the amount of trucks and other vehicles.

The Interislander Kaitaki, one of the current fleet, can carry 1350 passengers. New ships would be able to carry twice as many people.
STUFFThe Interislander Kaitaki, one of the current fleet, can carry 1350 passengers. New ships would be able to carry twice as many people.

They would also be more fuel efficient. At times the ships would be able to run on battery power, and the design would be future-proofed so new fuel sources could be adopted as they became available, KiwiRail said.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters said of the current ships, only the Aratere was rail-enabled.

“This Government is committed to restoring rail to its rightful place in New Zealand. Bigger, better ships, with new technology are yet another step on that journey,” Peters said.

The ships would be a “huge boost” to New Zealand’s civil engineering and construction sectors, with hundreds of contractors and material suppliers needed for track renewal and facility upgrades.

That construction work was expected to begin in 2021.

Busy work programme begins for Auckland rail – KiwiRail

Friday, 22 May, 2020

KiwiRail teams will be working hard over nights and at weekends throughout winter to build a better rail network for Auckland.

Work will begin this weekend to replace almost 12 kilometres of old rail and more than 2500 sleepers on the busy Eastern Line between Britomart and Otahuhu, says KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer Todd Moyle.

“Aucklanders are using the rail network more and more, with 3,500 commuter services and 246 freight trains in a typical week.

“That amount of rail traffic causes wear and tear on the rails over time, just as heavy traffic does to road surfaces, and in some cases we have to put speed restrictions in place. It is critical that we replace the rails so we can keep trains running efficiently and safely on the network for the thousands of rail commuters.

“Getting this work done will enable us to remove speed restrictions on the line and when finished, commuters will enjoy a quicker, smoother and quieter journey.

“Replacing the rail and sleepers can only be done when no trains are running. We have worked closely with Auckland Transport to settle on a work programme that allows us to minimise disruption for commuters while enabling us to get the work done efficiently and safely.

“Around 200 people will be working on the project, including 85 from outside Auckland who are being brought in to ensure the work is done as quickly as possible.

“Trains will be replaced by buses during evenings and at weekends when there are fewer commuters using the services, so our teams can get out to do the work. We understand this may be disruptive for those who use the trains at these times, however these closures mean we can get the work done much more quickly, so there is less overall disruption.

“We are conscious that this work may also cause some disturbance to our corridor neighbours. Our teams are focused on getting the work done as quickly and quietly as possible.

“We are working progressively across the entire network to replace the oldest and most worn sections of track, with 23km of new rail already in place across the network since March 2019. This period of work on the Eastern Line will take about eight weeks, with more work planned for late September.

“The work forms part of an ongoing project to improve the Auckland network, lay a foundation for predicted growth in passenger and freight volumes, and ensure the benefits of the City Rail Link can be delivered.”

Milburn ‘Inland port’ gets backing

A southern MP says a recent $1.2 billion cash boost for KiwiRail could be a “game-changer” for the Clutha economy.

Lawrence-based NZ First list MP Mark Patterson said yesterday he supported the establishment of an “inland port” at Milburn, in South Otago.

An inland port provides a remote storage hub for export goods such as logs and frozen produce, linking a region’s production zones and sea port.

Mr Patterson said the $1.2 billion funding for KiwiRail announced in the recent Budget could help provide the upgraded rail network essential for such a facility.

The Government’s draft New Zealand Rail Plan, published in December last year and expected to be finalised shortly, has identified Milburn as a preferred site, servicing Port Otago.

Mr Patterson said the area was a natural crossroads between Central Otago, Southland and Dunedin, and had a “compelling case” for selection.

“The studies have shown we need to move additional freight on to rail, and this idea has the support of both Dunedin and Clutha [councils].

“Experience elsewhere shows that where you have an inland port, major industry follows, so this could be a game-changer for Clutha.”

On June 11, Clutha District Council is expected to finalise the rezoning of more than 330ha of land between Milton and Milburn to industrial.

Businesses including Calder Stewart and Pan Pac Forest Products already adjoin the land.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said the rezoning would allow Milton and surrounds to “fully realise their potential”.

“The zonal changes and financial investment we’re now making in Milton are building blocks we’re laying for a more vibrant future for the district.

“We’ve maintained for a long time Milton has Clutha’s greatest potential for growth. If ever we needed that potential realised, it’s now.”

Cubic turns 20

20 years ago a new start up company was formed. Cubic Transport Services Ltd started operating in the newly deregulated New Zealand domestic shipping market, shaking up the duopoly that existed, and driving down prices to realistic levels. We soon introduced rail service options over all routes, and added RORO services, and even container sales and leasing.

We are lucky to have great customers and staff. Most of our team have been with us for several years, and some former long time staff have gone on to do really interesting things, sometimes in other industries.

Mike Oates, Rebecca Brown, Jenna Brown, Judy Meharry, Mike Catty and Junior Amituanai all played a part in shaping the company over several years, as did Kalene Sciascia, Andrea Brown and Chrissy Andrews who are still with us, along with newer members of the team – Kayla Kearns and Bianca Sciascia.

20 years ago we had no idea of the changes we would see. Competitors have come and gone, shipping options have grown and keep changing, rail services have improved.

Five years ago we moved to a decentralised remote working business model, meaning we could retain or attract great staff who could incorporate Cubic into their lifestyle. Whether growing their family or moving to a different location they could still work with Cubic.

We have seen many natural disasters, with the Kaikoura earthquake being the most disrupting for supply chains.

And now a once in 100 years pandemic has created a new normal for us all, but has proven that for many companies our remote/decentralised working model actually works really well, and that you CAN actually trust staff, and save them from the daily commuting torture that many people endure.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 20 years throw our way…


Picton and Wellington bear brunt of slow shift to cleaner shipping fuels

Picton residents started voicing their concerns about fumes from Cook Strait ferries in 2018.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFPicton residents started voicing their concerns about fumes from Cook Strait ferries in 2018.

The Ministry of Health has repeated its call for the Government to speed up the country’s move to cleaner shipping fuels, saying the delays come at the “expense of the health of New Zealanders”.

Ministry population health deputy director-general Deborah Woodley called for immediate accession to Annex VI of Marpol, the International Maritime convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, saying Picton and Wellington were bearing the brunt of the delays. 

In her submission to the Environment Select Committee in March, Woodley highlighted the air quality improvement around the Port of Tauranga since international shipping fleets reduced toxic fumes in January this year. 

This was not the case in Picton, which serves a primarily domestic fleet, including the inter-island ferries. 

Smoke coming from an Interislander ferry docked at Picton in 2018.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFSmoke coming from an Interislander ferry docked at Picton in 2018.

Cook Strait ferries were responsible for more port calls in Picton and Wellington than international shipping in all ports around New Zealand, the submission said. 

The Government plans to join Annex VI of Marpol by November 2021, but the Ministry of Health has called for immediate accession, rather than delaying the move “to manage fuel price fluctuations”.

Ministry of Transport environment, emissions and adaptation manager Glen-Marie Burns said before New Zealand could ratify the treaty, they must make changes to domestic legislation.

“We estimated it would take approximately 18 months to align our domestic legislation …”

They advised Cabinet that November 2021 was “the earliest timeframe” that they could accede. 

Annex VI obligations would come into effect three months later.  

More stringent Annex VI regulations took effect globally on January 1, 2020, when the sulphur limit of 3.5 per cent by mass for marine fuels dropped to 0.5 per cent.

All ships ‘flagged’ to Annex VI party states visiting New Zealand had to comply, but domestic ships, including Cook Strait ferries, were not yet bound by the regulations.

A cruise ship sailing past Waikawa Bay bound for Picton in 2019.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFA cruise ship sailing past Waikawa Bay bound for Picton in 2019.

The implementation of Marpol Annex VI abroad had shown up in improved air quality monitoring near the Port of Tauranga, which served a mainly international shipping fleet, Woodley said in her submission.

Air quality monitoring in January 2020 showed a “significant reduction” in concentrations of sulphur dioxide compared with January 2019. 

She understood there had been similar reductions in other international shipping ports around New Zealand.

“However, this is not the case for Picton which serves primarily domestic shipping,” Woodley said. 

There were two main reasons why the Ministry of Health supported New Zealand’s immediate accession to Annex VI, she said. 

“Reduced emissions of harmful air pollutants will result in reduced adverse public health effects and costs, including premature deaths in New Zealand. 

“Accession to Annex VI provides New Zealand with a tangible action to combat climate change.”

The regulation process has been too slow for Picton marine and environmental engineer Brent Yardley. 
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFFThe regulation process has been too slow for Picton marine and environmental engineer Brent Yardley. 

Picton marine and environmental engineer Brent Yardley has been publicly calling for New Zealand to join Annex VI since 2018

“It goes without saying that the regulation process has been extraordinarily slow,” he said. 

“The Ministry of Health asked for immediate accession early in 2019 and have repeated that call again this year. Others have lobbied the Ministry of Transport to act since at least 2016,” Yardley said. 

“Is it reasonable to take years implementing rules that are standard virtually everywhere else?” he said. 

“And is it reasonable to ignore the risk to public health in the meantime? I don’t think it is.

“It is abundantly clear that pollution is a serious health risk. Why we can’t sensibly manage pollution, on the other hand, is not so clear.”

New Zealand and Mexico were the only two countries in the OECD not signed up to the agreement requiring ships to run on cleaner fuel.

Mobil have asked the Government to consider deferring accession for five years minimum. 
MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFFMobil have asked the Government to consider deferring accession for five years minimum. 

Strait NZ, which owns Bluebridge ferries, said they supported New Zealand’s accession, in particular for reducing the impact on human health and environments in port communities from maritime pollution.

However, Bluebridge outlined their concerns saying the options available to comply were “limited and come with significant costs”.

“This will have flow-on effects for Bluebridge’s commercial freight and passenger customers and, in respect of commercial freight, flow-on effects for the end consumers of those services,” the submission said. 

Bluebridge is one of two companies which ferry passengers and freight across Cook Strait. 
RICKY WILSON/STUFFBluebridge is one of two companies which ferry passengers and freight across Cook Strait. 

$400m to be spent on bigger, faster Interislander ferries

The Interislander ferry service expects to increase passenger numbers when it trades in its three existing ships for two bigger new ones by 2025.

Approaching Picton The Interislander Ferry Aratere in Queen Charlotte Sound

The Aratere in Queen Charlotte Sound.

KiwiRail was allocated $400 million in the Budget for the project.

The total cost is forecast to be more than $1 billion but it will include reconfigurations of the terminals in Wellington and Picton.

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller told Morning Report a lot of the money will be used on resizing the ferry terminals to accommodate the bigger vessels.

“The new ferries are over 200 metres long and over 30 metres wide so they’re quite a bit bigger than the current ships…

“They’ll be 30-year assets so we’ve got to do a very thorough job with respect to the design and the mode of power and all the things that come with them.

“Landside at the port of Wellington and in Picton there will be new ferry terminals established that will also be long-run assets as part of that capital plan.”

An artist's interpretation of what Picton's proposed new Interislander ferry terminal will look like.

An artist’s impression of the new Picton ferry terminal. Photo: Supplied / KiwiRail

The new ferries will provide twice the current capacity and will help KiwiRail meet growing demand. At present it moves 800,000 passengers a year and will be able to add at least 50 percent capacity.

The new ferries will also be environmentally superior to the current vessels and will cut the water better.

“The things we have learned in the world of ship-building have shown us is that the hull design ergonomically is a big part of the overall plan.”

He said the ferries would bring a different style of Cook Strait travel that would help set KiwiRail up for the future.

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union said the spending injection to replace old ferries and trains is “significant”.

General secretary Wayne Butson said the money starts to make up for almost a decade of under-investment under the previous National-led government.

He said the new money is needed to keep the rail system running.

Transmission Gully project ‘likely’ pushed out to 2021

You can forget November. And there will be no Christmas present for frustrated Wellington region motorists either. Transmission Gully won’t be open in 2020.

Delivery of the $1 billion highway will likely be extended to 2021, the New Zealand Transport Agency has confirmed.

The project has been flattened by Covid-19 and steamrolled by the Government’s alert level restrictions. Now it also faces the challenges of winter.

But it’s unclear whether the likely delay will mean the public-private consortium tasked with building it will be fined thousands of dollars every day it misses its original deadline.

The latest assigned Transmission Gully delivery date was November 1, with NZTA previously warning of a $16,000 fine for each day it was late.

If the road wasn’t open by December 18, it was to be slapped with a $10 million penalty.

“As [NZTA] is currently involved in negotiations with the JV [joint venture], we’re not in a position to provide further comment at this time,” a spokeswoman said on Sunday, when asked about whether the fines would still occur.

Transmission Gully roading works at Takapu Road. Housing developments on the Kāpiti Coast are growing with the building of the commuter road to Wellington.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFTransmission Gully roading works at Takapu Road. Housing developments on the Kāpiti Coast are growing with the building of the commuter road to Wellington.

Andrew Thackwray, NZTA senior manager in project delivery, said it was clear the Level 4 lockdown and Level 3 restrictions “will have an impact on the completion date, which will likely extend into 2021”.

“As the project is a public-private partnership with different commercial terms, Waka Kotahi [NZTA] is negotiating with the builder, CPB/HEB Joint Venture, to confirm and agree a new completion date.”

Work resumed on April 29 at a number of sites along the 27-kilometre route, Thackwray said. New work sites were being progressively started as crews were re-inducted to ensure compliance with Covid-19.

“We understand that the builder has made adjustments to the programme of work in line with the change of season,” Thackwray said.

“Typically these changes would be more gradual as we go through the seasons, however all work was suspended during the lockdown and we are now heading into winter so we expect changes need to be made to reflect that.

“Many of the activities due to be completed were not scheduled to be worked on at the onset of winter so this requires a major change in how work on Transmission Gully will need to be delivered.”

Work was under way to develop a new delivery plan as quickly as possible, using local resources, Thackwray said.

He said there were 182 people working across four reopened sites. Another 59 were working from home to support the project.

A “significant portion” of site engineering and supervision team – about 80 roles – and some of the operations personnel were still overseas at home, unable to return to the site with border restrictions, he said.

Nick Leggett, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum.
THE-PRESSNick Leggett, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum.

When the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was announced, reports emerged of a mass exodus of Australian construction workers, who chose to head home rather than wait out the lockdown here.

News of the likely delay comes after Nick Leggett, chief executive of the forum which represented several regional trucking associations, said there were suggestions the project’s budget had been cut and the timeline extended for two years.

“In the final straight of construction of such a large project, which was due to be completed by the end of this year, it is a worry to hear that contracts for supply and equipment have been cut, and workforce numbers reduced.”

National Party transport spokesman Chris Bishop labelled a rumoured two-year extension to the Transmission Gully as "excessive" and "extremely concerning". ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFNational Party transport spokesman Chris Bishop labelled a rumoured two-year extension to the Transmission Gully as “excessive” and “extremely concerning”. ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

National’s Transport spokesman Chris Bishop echoed Leggett’s concerns, saying the Government’s rhetoric wasn’t matching up with what’s happening on the ground and called for urgent clarification.

Gisborne Train Link Not Justified: KiwiRail

Article: Aaron van Delden – Local Democracy Reporter

The figures don’t stack up for reinstating the train line between Gisborne and Wairoa, KiwiRail boss Greg Miller says.

Gisborne District Council has identified the line’s refurbishment as a shovel-ready project that, with Crown funding, could bolster the economy in the wake of Covid-19.

The council’s application to the Government’s Infrastructure Industry Reference Group says up to $23.3 million is needed for the project.

But KiwiRail, which would be responsible for the work, believes it could cost up to five times as much as that to reinstate the mothballed track.

It also says there is no guarantee of sufficient southbound freight to justify the proposed multimillion-dollar investment.

“Our view is it’s actually quite high risk to put this capital in there when there’s no certainty on revenue,” Mr Miller said.

He had provided that appraisal to the Government, which he said had been “proactively” seeking feedback from stakeholders in the line’s restoration.

Mr Miller said KiwiRail was feeling the pinch of reduced train services due to Covid-19 and would be focused on building freight volumes on existing lines.

“As a state-owned enterprise, we’ve got to run a commercial business, and there are no subsidies for the freight network.”

A feasibility study, led by Berl economists and released late last year, found there was enough freight out of Gisborne to justify running a 24-wagon train on the line to Napier each weekday, as well as a daily 24-wagon log service, with each wagon carrying the load of one truck.

Mr Miller said KiwiRail had done its own research into potential freight volumes for the line.

He was yet to be convinced there was enough freight to justify the cost of restoring the line “at this point”.

KiwiRail’s research would not be published because there was a great deal of variability in freight volumes from day to day, Mr Miller said.

Storm damage led to the closure of the railway between Gisborne and Napier in 2012, but the Wairoa-Napier section of the track reopened last June, thanks to $6.2m from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Mr Miller said the coastal train line between Gisborne and Wairoa presented more maintenance challenges than the track between Wairoa and Napier, and climate change was likely to exacerbate those issues.