Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jet Raider evacuation

I happened to be on board the Jet Raider on Sunday 11am ex-AKL with 315 other passengers. It was a glorious Spring-like morning with just a whispery breeze on the harbour. In the middle of the Motuihe Channel the vessel came to a shuddering halt, with the loss of all engine power. This was not something I have experienced before, as most other instances of failure I have endured only affected one of the engines. The ship drifted, spun round its axle and the captain came on the tannoy saying there would be another vessel alongside shortly to take us to Waiheke. No mention of the cause of the failure, we had to hear that from another staff member who told a passenger.
Starflyte, and later SuperFlyte plus the Coast Guard, turned up and after some manoeuvering (and the dropping of Jet Raider's anchor about 20 minutes after the stop) evacuation of all passengers could begin. All managed to jump on - I'm not sure what the legal capacity limit of Starflyte is but 316 passengers (and those already on board) made for a packed sailing.

This could have had the potential of a major disaster had the breeze been much stiffer: we drifted towards Motuihe and its reef quite markedly in the balmy conditions. Hell knows what would have happened trying to get everybody off Jet Raider in much more trying circumstances (let alone foundered on rocks). It took about half an hour of orderly evacuation as it was. Imagining we had to get off in a panic is the stuff of nightmares.

I trust the Maritime Safety Authority will have a word about this. Scuttling Jet Raider afterwards was an opportunity missed to get rid of the thing.

Press coverage:
New Zealand Herald
Sunday Star Times
Sunday News
Radio New Zealand

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