By 3 News online staff
The Stena Alegra, the stand-in ship for stricken Interislander Aratere, is guzzling lubricant and has serious engine issues, NZ First leader Winston Peters claims.
The ship, which is out of service until at least Sunday following damage to its hull yesterday, is currently using 20 times more lubricant than other ferries, Mr Peters says.
In the House this afternoon, Mr Peters called on Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to stop KiwiRail from running an unsafe ferry service.
"The KiwiRail Cook Strait ferry service is an absolute shambles yet the Government allows this incompetence to continue, creating a clear and present threat to passengers and other ships on a very dangerous piece of water."
Mr Peters says the Stena Alegra is under constant repair and cannot take rail freight.
"[Interislander ferry] Arahura is the only ferry left that can take rail freight and if anything happens to this ship, KiwiRail might as well pack in the ferry service and hand it to someone who knows what they are doing."
After sustaining damage to its hull in "severe weather conditions" yesterday, a ship surveyor has determined repair work is needed on the ferry and will likely take between four and five days.
All Stena Alegra sailings until Sunday, April 13 have been cancelled.
Passengers and freight companies booked on the Stena Alegra over the next few days are being contacted and alternative arrangements are being made for their travel. In the meantime, all other Interislander ferry sailings will continue.
The Stena Alegra was meant to temporarily replace the stricken Aratere ferry, and has been in operation since January. It was brought in after the Aratere lost its propeller in Tory Channel in November last year.
The damage to the Stena Alegra comes a day after KiwiRail said a crack on the Aratere, which is dry-docked in Singapore, was found in the shaft which turns the rudders.
The crack will delay the Aratere's return to New Zealand, the company says.
It was expected to be back in service by early May, but is more likely to be back in the country in early June.
Mr Peters believes the Aratere should be scrapped altogether in favour of a new ferry.
Interislander advises passengers to visit their website for further information.