DEV Arahura

DEV Arahura was a roll-on/roll-off train ferry that operated on the Interislander service between Wellington and Picton in New Zealand from 1983 until 2015.

Arahura at Pencarrow Head in 2004 livery, prior to the 2008 refit.
Name: Arahura
Namesake: Māori: Pathway to Dawn
Owner: KiwiRail
Port of registry: Wellington,  New Zealand
Route: Wellington - Picton
Builder: Aalborg Vaerft, Denmark
Laid down: 1982
Launched: 18 March 1983
Completed: 1983
Maiden voyage: 21 December 1983
In service: 1983 - 2015
Out of service: July 2015
Identification: IMO number: 8201454
Fate: Scrapped at Alang 2015
General characteristics
Tonnage: 13621 gt
Length: 148.3 m (487 ft)
Beam: 20.5 m (67 ft)
Draft: 5.47 m
Decks: 9
Installed power: Four Wärtsilä Vasa 12V32 diesel engines, each producing 4065 kW at 750 RPM coupled to 2 3800 kW General Electric Company generators via flexible shafts.
Propulsion: Two 6700 kW propulsion motors driving two KaMeWa Controllable pitch propellers, each four blades inward turning at 214 RPM and 4.6 m (15 ft) in diameter.
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h)
  • 550 passengers
  • 142 cars
  • 60 rail vehicles
Crew: 65


Arahura - First Voyage (1983)

Arahura was built for the New Zealand Railways Corporation by Aalborg Vaerft, Denmark to cross Cook Strait, replacing the ageing Aramoana and Aranui.[1] She was designed to operate at a faster service speed than the previous ferries on the route, while reducing waves that would affect nearby beaches. This reduced the crossing time by 20 minutes.[2] It entered service on 21 December 1983.[3]

This was the second inter-island ferry to bear the name Arahura (a Māori word meaning "Pathway to Dawn"). The earlier vessel was a twin-screw steamship built in Scotland for the Union Steamship Company in 1905. That ship served until the early 1950s and was sunk by the Royal New Zealand Air Force as target practice.[4]

In 1986, Arahura helped rescue passengers from the sinking Russian cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov,[5] providing lifeboats and extra assistance.

On 11 April 1989, Arahura rolled to 40 degrees during a routine sailing from Picton to Wellington because of stormy conditions in Cook Strait.[6]

In 2008, Arahura underwent a $NZ9 million refit to better accommodate larger trucks and campervans. This included reducing some of the upper decks and installing a new cinema and cafeteria.[7][8]

In 2014, she made her 50,000th Cook Strait crossing.[9]

In December 2014, KiwiRail announced that Arahura would be retired in 2015 after 32 years in service. Kaiarahi was chartered to replace her on the route.[10] Arahura's last scheduled passenger voyages were on 29 July 2015, operating the 14:45 sailing to Picton and the 18:45 sailing to Wellington.[11] The last freight journey took place over the following night.[citation needed] She had completed more than 52,000 crossings and 13 million km with four million passengers carried.

On 3 October 2015, renamed Ahura and with her Interislander livery painted out, she departed Wellington, bound for the Alang scrapyard in India, being beached there on 3 November.[12][13] Scrapping was completed in late January 2016.


Arahura 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).[14][15]

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 in Pelorus Jack livery in the Marlborough Sounds.


Arahura was a diesel-electric vessel. She had 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 to light all the houses in Wellington.[16]

Deck layout

Rail vehicles being loaded at the Wellington terminal

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

  • Decks 1 and 2 were below the waterline and contained the ship's engines, control room and other machinery.
  • Deck 3 was the rail deck, which could also hold motor vehicles.
  • Deck 5 was the dedicated vehicle deck.
  • Deck 7 contained passenger accommodation, including a play area, video arcade, food court, a cinema, and a store.
  • Deck 8 contained the passenger observation decks and the Queen Charlotte Cafe and Bar.
  • Deck 9 housed the bridge and officers' quarters. She carried approximately 70 crew, half of whom lived on board on a 7 days on, 7 days off roster cycle.


  1. Contract signed for new ferry Rails March 1982 page 13
  2. "Arahura - New Zealand Maritime Record". New Zealand Maritime Record. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  3. Super ferry Arahura goes into service Rails March 1984 pages 172-174
  4. Arahura chosen for fifth ferry Rails September 1982 page 23
  5. "The Last Cruise of the Mikhail Lermontov". NZ Maritime Record. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  6. "Wave rolls Arahura 40 degrees in wild strait". The Evening Post. 12 April 1989.
  7. "Arahura 2008". New Zealand Ship and Marine Society. Archived from the original on 16 October 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  8. "Interislander ferry Arahura to get $9m refit". New Zealand Herald. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  9. "Happy berth-day, Arahura". Scoop. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  10. Donoghue, Tim (9 December 2014). "Stena Alegra ferry to replace Arahura". Stuff. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  11. "Haere Ra Arahura". Interislander. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  12. Overseas buyer snaps up ex-Interislander ferry Arahura Stuff 4 October 2015
  13. Ferries in the News Ships Monthly January 2016 page 11
  14. "Arahura 1987". New Zealand Ship and Marine Society. Archived from the original on 16 October 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  15. "Simplon Postcards - Arahura". Simplon Postcards. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  16. "Interislander Ferry - Ships and Facilities". Ferry Tickets online. Archived from the original on 9 August 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2012.