DEV Arahura

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Arahura 2004Livery.jpg
Arahura at Pencarrow Head in 2004 livery, prior to the 2008 refit.
Name: Arahura
Namesake: Māori: Pathway to Dawn
Owner: New Zealand Government
Operator: Interislander
Port of registry: Wellington,  New Zealand
Route: Wellington to Picton
Builder: Aalborg Vaerft A/S shipyard, Denmark
Completed: 1983
In service: 1983 - 2015, Interislander
Status: Listed for sale[1]
General characteristics
Tonnage: 13621 tonnes
Length: 148 m (486 ft)
Beam: 20.5 m (67 ft)
Draft: 5.47 m
Decks: 9
Installed power: Four Wärtsilä 12V32 diesel engines, each producing 3800 kW at 750 rpm
Propulsion: Two KaMeWa Controllable pitch propellers, each four blades inward turning and 4.6 m (15 ft) in diameter.
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h)
Capacity: 550 passengers
142 cars
60 rail vehicles
Crew: 65

DEV Arahura is a roll-on roll-off diesel-electric rail ferry completed in 1983 for the New Zealand Railways Corporation. She has been in service on the Interislander route across the Cook Strait in New Zealand since late 1983 and was retired from the Interislander fleet in July 2015.


Arahura was built for the New Zealand Railways Corporation to operate on the Cook Strait route between Wellington and Picton in 1983, replacing the aging Aramoana and Aranui. She was designed to operate at a higher service speed than the previous ferries on the route, while reducing waves that would affect nearby beaches. This decreased the crossing times by 20 minutes.[2]

The current Arahura is the second inter-island ferry to bear the name, which means "Pathway to Dawn" in the Māori language. The earlier vessel was a twin screw steam ship built for the Union Steamship Company in 1905. That ship served until the early 1950s and was sunk by the RNZAF as target practice.

In 1986, Arahura helped rescue passengers from the sinking Russian cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov.[3] She was invaluable providing lifeboats and extra assistance.

On 30 September 1987, Arahura snapped her moorings and floated free, straddling Kings and Glasgow wharves in Wellington.[4]

On 11 April 1989, Arahura rolled to 40 degrees during a routine sailing from Picton to Wellington, due to stormy conditions in Cook Strait.[5]

In 2008, Arahura underwent a $NZ 9m refit to better accommodate larger trucks and campervans. This included reducing some of the upper decks and a new cinema and cafeteria.[6][7]

Arahura in "Pelorus Jack" livery in the Marlborough Sounds.

In 2014, she made her 50,000th Cook Strait crossing.[8]

In December 2014, Interislander annouced that Arahura would be retired in 2015 after 32 years in service. MS Kaiarahi (formerly MS Stena Alegra) has been chartered to replace her on the route.[9] Arahura's last scheduled voyages were on 29 July 2015, operating the 14:45 sailing to Picton and the 18:45 sailing to Wellington. However she did one further, final unheralded freight only (including hazardous goods) return crossing, departing Wellington approx 2320 that same day, arriving in Picton 0220 on 30 July 2015, before making her final, unheralded departure again at 0430, finally arriving Wellington around 0730. [10]


Arahura has changed liveries three times in her lifetime. Originally, she had a green hull and buff, red, and black on the funnel (a modified 1970s NZR logo).[11][12]

In 1989, the inter-island service was re-branded as a "ferry cruise", and the livery of all the ferries was replaced with a white hull with blue and green stripes. The funnels now carried a stylized 'Pelorus Jack', a dolphin famous for assisting vessels navigating across the Cook Strait.

The liveries were changed again in 2004. Pelorus Jack was relocated to the hull and the funnels were now blue with a fern replacing Pelorus Jack.


Arahura is a diesel electric vessel. She has a fuel capacity of 450,000 litres and was built with the capability to provide power ashore for civil defence or similar emergencies providing 14 MW power - enough power to light all the houses in Wellington.[13]

Deck Layout[edit]

Rail vehicles being loaded at the Wellington terminal

Rail and road vehicles are loaded and unloaded through the stern of the ship via a double linkspan. Passengers without vehicles board through a walkway on the starboard side.

  • Decks 1 and 2 are below the waterline and contain the ship's engines,control room and other machinery.
  • Deck 3 is the rail deck, which can also hold motor vehicles.
  • Deck 5 is the dedicated vehicle deck.
  • Deck 7 contains passenger accommodations, including a play area, video arcade, food court, a cinema, and a store.
  • Deck 8 contains the passenger observation decks and the Queen Charlotte Cafe and Bar
  • Deck 9 houses the bridge and officers' quarters. She carries approximately 70 crew, half of whom live on-board on a 7 days on, 7 days off roster cycle.


  1. ^ Stewart, Matt (29 July 2015). "Arahura's final sailing an emotional voyage for many passengers". Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Arahura - New Zealand Maritime Record". New Zealand Maritime Record. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  3. ^ "The Last Cruise of the Mikhail Lermontov". NZ Maritime Record. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  4. ^ The Evening Post (New Zealand)
  5. ^ "Wave rolls Arahura 40 degrees in wild strait.". The Evening Post. 12 April 1989. 
  6. ^ "Arahura 2008". New Zealand Ship and Marine Society. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  7. ^ "Interislander ferry Arahura to get $9m refit". The New Zealand Herald. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  8. ^ "Happy berth-day, Arahura". Scoop Independent News. Retrieved 2014-12-08. 
  9. ^ Donoghue, Tim (9 December 2014). "Stena Alegra ferry to replace Arahura". Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Haere Ra Arahura". Interislander. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Arahura 1987". New Zealand Ship and Marine Society. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  12. ^ "Simplon Postcards - Arahura". Simplon Postcards. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  13. ^ "Interislander Ferry - Ships and Facilities". Ferry Tickets online. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 

External links[edit]