Arahura celebrates 30 years’ service

13 December 2013 10:10AM

Interislander’s Arahura ferry is celebrating its 30th birthday tomorrow. Since she entered service back in December 1983, the ship has completed just under 49,000 crossings, covering around 2.7 million nautical miles.

“Specifically designed and built for local conditions as a replacement for the smaller and ageing Aramoana and Aranui, Arahura’s revolutionary design has stood the test of time, and 30 years on she is still an indispensable part of the Interislander service,” says Interislander General Manager Thomas Davis.

Built by Aalborgs Vaerft, Alborg, Denmark, she was custom-designed to meet the demands of an increasingly busy inter-island service. At the time, Aalborgs was one of the world’s leading shipyards and Arahura was immediately recognised as an exceptionally well built and well-designed ship.

“At just over 148 metres long and more than 13,600 gross tonnes she was much larger than any other Cook Straight ferries then in service. She also had capacity for 1085 passengers, 100 cars and 60 railway wagons. Nothing like this capacity had been available before,” Mr Davis says.  

John Mansell, who served three rotations as Master of Arahura and is now Principal Maritime Advisor for Maritime New Zealand, remembers when the Arahura arrived at Wellington’s Overseas Passenger Terminal. “All the captains of the rail ferries were there to welcome her. We were all immensely impressed. She was a handsome, beautifully designed ship. The cargo decks were spacious and provided for both rail and road freight. The accommodation was lovely and the bridge layout revolutionary for the time. She was far superior to anything we’d known. It was an unforgettable occasion,” recalls.

Arahura was the first ship in Australasia to feature a modern bridge. Although this type of bridge layout is now more common, for its time, the cock-pit style design of Arahura’s bridge was cutting edge. Her bulbous bow was also an innovation. She was also faster than any of the other ferries then in service. Former Nautical Manager Julian Lillico was a deck officer for the voyage home from Denmark. “I’d done the south bound trip from Europe many times but she could really go. It was the fastest trip I’d ever made from Europe to New Zealand. She was a pretty special ship and up there with the best.”

Not surprisingly, she became the darling of the inter-island fleet and is still the favourite ship of many past and serving masters.

“Arahura was amazing. She was exactly what we wanted — the ship, the bridge layout, everything was beautiful. She has the best bridge I’ve ever worked on and it was because of the bridge layout that Arahura was so easy to handle,” recalls Captain John Brown a former master of Arahura.

“The professional crew that has sailed on Arahura has maintained the ship to a standard that has provided safe, reliable and memorable sailings for millions of passengers, and the ship remains a very valuable part of Interislander’s fleet,” Mr Davis says.


Media Contact: Sophie Lee, Senior Communications Advisor, 027 435 9464,