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MV Kaiarahi (Ex Dawn Merchant) – Past and Present

IMO Number: 9147291

MV Kaiarahi

ex Stena Alegra, Norman Trader, T Rex, Ave Luebeck, Pau Casals, Europax Appia, Dawn Merchant

© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood (Dover)

Steel twin screw motor vessel built in 1998, by Astilleros Espanoles S.A. (AESA) Seville, Spain, (Yard No. 287) for Cenargo as a passenger roll-on roll-off commercial freight ferry

Technical Data

  • Cost New: $56 million
  • Length: 179.3 m (overall)
  • Breadth of Hull: 25.24m (moulded)
  • Draught: 6.50 m
  • Tonnage: 22,152 gross, 6,645 net, 7,360 deadweight
  • Engines: Four 9-cylinder Wartsila diesels
  • Power: 23760 kW
  • Speed: 22.5 knots
  • Capacity: 214 passengers, 144 (13.5 m ) commercial trailers
  • Call Sign: MYIL6, ZMKL
  • IMO Number: 9147291
  • Registry: Douglas/Isle of Man 🇮🇲 , Liverpool/UK 🇬🇧, London/UK 🇬🇧, Wellington/New Zealand 🇳🇿, 
  • Sister Vessels: Brave Merchant (288),, Northern Merchant (289)Midnight Merchant_(290), Murillo (291)

Current AIS Location

Please note that this specific vessels AIS position data may be over an hour old and that the vessels position will only be displayed when it is within range of the VesselFinder AIS system. The AIS transponder/ship position data featured on this page is intended for information purposes only and it is in no way related to the 'Safety of Navigation at Sea'. All the AIS ship position data featured within this article is provided by VesselFinder and we are therefore not responsible for its content or its accuracy.


The ‘Racehorse’ class quartet of ro-pax sisters were built between 1997 and 2000 for the Cenargo Group. The first pair came into service with Merchant Ferries who named the vessels after the well known racing thoroughbreds ‘Dawn Run’ (Dawn Merchant) and ‘Dancing Brave’ (Brave Merchant). These vessels, at 22,046grt, where slightly smaller in tonnage terms compared to their 22,215grt Norfolkline chartered sisters Midnight Merchant and Northern Merchant. The Murillo built in 2002 for the Spanish shipping company Trasmediterranea was based on the same design.

February 1998: Launched.

September 3rd 1998: Delivered to Cenargo International Ltd (Nassau, Bahamas). She was initially chartered to Und RoRo, Istanbul, Turkey and introduced into service between Istanbul – Trieste.

© Daniel Ferro

© Daniel Ferro

1999: Registered to V Ships (UK) Douglas, Isle of Man.

January 7th 1999: She first arrived in Liverpool.

February 15th 1999: Introduced between Liverpool – Dublin. with Merchant Ferries.

© Justin Merrigan  © Justin Merrigan  

© Justin Merrigan

March 1st 1999: Also carried foot-passengers.

© Robbie Cox

© Robbie Cox (Dublin 08/06/1999)

April 2002: Operated under the banner of Norse Merchant Ferries from Liverpool – Dublin.

September 2nd 2002: Was due to enter service at Dover, but there was a delay in replacing her on the Mersey-Dublin route.

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

September 13th 2002: Left Liverpool.

September 14th 2002: Arrived at Dover.

© Ken Larwood

🆕© Ken Larwood (Dover)

September 15th 2002: Maiden voyage between Dover – Dunkerque (without modifications, paint or structural).

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

October 24th 2002: Lightly loaded and in apparently good weather, she collided with the breakwater at Dover and had to return, taking in water and in need of evacuation and repairs.
Without the necessary stern modifications required to allow her to operate from anything other than Berth 1 at Dover, departures through the Eastern exit require a difficult manoeuvre. The ship’s starboard side struck the central breakwater causing a 15 metres gash above the water line. The ship went to Dunkirk for repairs, during which time she was repainted in Norfolkline livery, but no structural modifications were carried out.


Gavin Hall Collection (Dover Strait Shipping)

November 21st 2002: Returned to Dover.

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton  

© Nigel Thornton

December 17th 2004: Damaged as she was leaving berth number 1 at Dover during bad weather. With 50 passengers, 9 cars and 19 freight vehicles on board, she hit the harbour wall resulting in a return to the berth where she discharged both passengers and cargo.

December 18th 2004: Sailed to Arno at Dunkerque for repairs.

July 1st 2004 (Dover Express): Norfolklines three Channel Ferries will be run by a newly-formed shipping group in a multi-million pound deal. Indo-China Ship Management (UK) has won the contract to operate and crew the ships.

© Nigel Thornton  Nigel Thornton Collection  

© Nigel Thornton (Left) and Nigel Thornton Collection (Right)

© Simonwp

© Simonwp (Dover 04/08/2004)

August 18th 2005: “Norse Merchant Ferries sells BRAVE MERCHANT and DAWN MERCHANT. With two new ro-pax ferries entering service this year on its Irish Sea routes, Norse Merchant Ferries has announced that it has sold two of its four Spanish-built ro-pax vessels, BRAVE MERCHANT (built 1999) and DAWN MERCHANT (built 1998), to a company nominated by New Paragon Investment Ltd, a Hong Kong based company advised by Epic Shipping Ltd.”

October 13th 2005: With the impending arrival of MAERSK DUNKERQUE, made her last sailing Dunkerque – Dover and sailed direct to Liverpool.

DAWN MERCHANT completed her charter to Maersk’s Norfolkline English Channel operation on Thursday evening October 13th 2005. She arrived back on the Mersey on the morning tide of Saturday October 15th , 2005. She proceeded up river swinging off the Twelve Quays Terminal to a long welcoming whistle from her sister BRAVE MERCHANT before heading to Langton Lock and proceeding into the former Norse Merchant Ferries Belfast berth at Brocklebank Dock where she was secured around 09:20.”

© Ian Collard  © Ian Collard  

© Ian Collard  © Ian Collard

🆕© Ian Collard

October 20th 2005: Departed from Brocklebank Dock. She has been berthed since her return from the English Channel on the morning of Saturday October 15th. Her Norfolk Line fleet name has been painted out, whilst her funnels have been painted all back to obliterate the Maersk blue. On entering the Mersey she proceeded to the Liverpool Bar. She hen returned and sailed up river and proceeded to Twelve Quays to take up DUBLIN VIKING’s sailings. DUBLIN VIKING after discharging at Twelve Quays, moved off to allow DAWN MERCHANT to berth. She then moved up river to await the early morning tide on Friday October 21 tide prior to entering Cammell Laird #5 dry dock for refit by NSL.

© Stephen Brown  © Stephen Brown   

© Stephen Brown

© Stephen Brown (all)

November 10th 2005: Now showing as the EUROPAX APPIA in Brocklebank Dock

November 12th 2005: Left Liverpool for the final time it seems. Destination is Siros.

December 12th 2005: “The planned Italian charter for the BRAVE MERCHANT and DAWN MERCHANT has fallen through. The DAWN MERCHANT is currently in dry-dock in Siros whilst the BRAVE MERCHANT is due to depart the Mersey on 28 December. The vessels’ owners are currently seeking a new charter for the pair.”

December 12th 2005: Registered to Daybreak Shipping, Ltd, England.

January 2006: She will connect Barcelona with Palma. Renamed PAU CASALS.

© Carlos Moreno Trabat © Carlos Moreno Trabat

🆕© Carlos Moreno Trabat (Palma, 11022006)

© Manuel Hernández Lafuente  © Manuel Hernández Lafuente  

© Manuel Hernández Lafuente (Valencia, 23/05/2007)

October 29th 2008: Subject of MAIB enquiry re failure of a bow door locking mechanism while the passenger ferry was on passage to Barcelona in heavy weather.

November 22nd 2008: Media reports suggest she will be renamed AVE LUEBECK and be operated by the company AVE Logistics. It is anticipated she will commence Liepaja-Travemunde route.

December 11th 2008: Reported as being at Gibraltar.

© Daniel Ferro  © Daniel Ferro  

© Daniel Ferro

December 30th 2008: Anticipated departure from Gibraltar, bound for Travemunde.January 3rd 2009: Passed through Dover Straits bound for The Great Nore anchorage (Sheerness) where she would take on stores and change crew.

January 15th 2009: Arrived at the The Elbe anchorage.

February 5th 2009: Arrived in Cuxhaven.

March 3rd 2009: Rumours circulating that her charter to AVE Logistics had been cancelled and she was noted as being en-route to Sheerness, Great Nore anchorage.

March 12th 2009: Arrived at berth 2 Sheerness.

March 18th 2009: Returned to the Great Nore anchorage.

March 31st 2009: Arrived at ARNO, Dunkerque.

© Robert Fournier  © Robert Fournier  

© Robert Fournier  © Robert Fournier  

© Robert Fournier

April 3rd 2009: Port de Dunkerque records her as being renamed T REX.

April 2009: Announcement made that she be employed by T-Link di Navigazione, a newly established company which will operate between Genoa’s Voltri terminal and Termini Imerese near Palermo.

April 13th 2009: Left Dunkerque and passed through the English Channel en-route to Genoa.

December 2009: Chartered to Cotunav.

March 26th 2010: Rumoured to be bound for charter to Norfolkline for refit cover on the Irish Sea.

April 7th 2010: Returned to service on Norfolklines Birkenhead – Dublin service.

May 9th 2010: Charter completed and anchored off Anglesey awaiting orders

May 14th 2010: Sailed from Liverpool to Boulogne

May 15th 2010: Anchored off Boulogne.

May 25th 2010: Arrived in Dunkerque. Rumoured to be suffering from propeller damage after grounding off Liverpool. From May 29th timetable LD indicates that she will become NORMAN TRADER and operate in tandem with NORMAN BRIDGE

© Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton

May 30th 2010: Commenced Boulogne – Dover.

© Andreas Wörteler  © Andreas Wörteler  

© Andreas Wörteler

© John Mavin © John Mavin © John Mavin

🆕© John Mavin (Various 2010)

© Manuel Dhondt  © Manuel Dhondt  

© Manuel Dhondt

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton  

© Nigel Thornton

23rd August 2010: LD Lines announces the closure of the Dover-Boulogne passenger service. The last sailing will be on the 5th September 2010.


© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton  © Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton

© Nigel Thornton


© Andreas Wörteler

September 5th 2010: LD Lines close the Boulogne route and pull out of Dover. The last crossing from Boulogne to Dover is completed by the Norman Trader.

© Simonwp  © Simonwp

© Simonwp (Dover, August 2010)

© Manuel Dhondt  © Manuel Dhondt 

© Manuel Dhondt (Final departure from Boulogne to Dover)

September 6th 2010 (17.18 hrs): Left Dover for Antwerp (later her destination was altered to Amsterdam).

September 14th 2010: After anchoring off Zeebrugge arrived at Amsterdam for dry-docking and lay-up.

November 20th 2010: Arrived at Tilbury.

© Robert J Smith  © Ken Smith  

© Robert J Smith (Left) and © Ken Smith (Right)

January 1st 2011: Departed Tilbury for Le-Havre (To relieve COTE D’ALBATRE/ Portsmouth – Le Havre service).

January 2nd 2011: Due at Le-Havre.

February 24th 2011: Returned to Tilbury.

March 30th 2011: Scheduled to depart Tilbury, destination Dublin.

May 3rd 2011: Covered Stena Line and P&O Ferries refits on the Liverpool-Dublin.

© Robbie Cox

🆕 © Robbie Cox (Dublin, 09/04/2011)

July 3rd 2011: To Falmouth for lay-up

© Tony Garner

© Tony Garner

24th May 2013: Reported that the Norman Trader had been sold to Stena Line and would be towed to Poland for refit. It was reported that the vessel would be renamed Stena Alegra.

26th May 2013: Departed Falmouth undertow of the tug ‘VIKING‘. It was reported that the vessel was bound for Gdynia.

June 2013: Renamed STENA ALEGRA.

June 5th 2013: Arrived in Gdynia for refit at Nauta S.A. Shipyard.

© Ken Amsbury

© Ken Amsbury © Ken Amsbury

© Ken Amsbury (all)

June 26th 2013: Left Nauta S.A..

© Kim Viktor

July 8th 2013: To be introduced between Karlskrona – Gdynia


© Bartek / bratex

© Simonwp

© Simonwp (Karlskrona, September 2013)

October 28th 2013: Reportedly ran aground off Karlskrona in strong winds. The vessel was in ballast anchored off the port of Karlskrona when she dragged her anchor and went aground on a shoal. There were no reports of injuries or pollution from the vessel.


© Kustbevakningen – Swedish Coastguard

October 30th 2013: Vessel successfully re-floated.

October 31st 2013: Arrived in Gdynia, Poland for repairs.

November 20th 2013: Stena Line (Freight) announced that she would be replaced by STENA BALTICA (ex Cotentin) “Stena Baltica offers double tier loading, which will give us the possibility to build more flexible timetables in the future as all ships will be able to make the same turnaround time. Beside faster and more efficient port calls, the new vessel also brings an added capacity of about 240 lm compared to Stena Alegra.”

November 27th 2013: Left Gdynia bound for  Falmouth.

November 30th 2013: ETA Falmouth.

November 2013: Announcement made that she would be chartered to Interislander  (New Zealand) as replacement for damaged ARATERE.

“The Stena Alegra ferry, which was blown aground in ferocious winds in the Baltic Sea last month, will be the temporary replacement for the stricken Cook Strait ferry Aratere. The 21,000 gross tonne (approx) ferry is expected to be delivered to Wellington for a minimum six-month charter period by a crew supplied by shipowner Stena Finance BV by the end of December.

InterIslander general manager Thomas Davis said the company planned to have the ship (which has stern and bow loading and unloading capacity) operational on Cook Strait by early January……………………………”


November 29th 2013: ETA to Falmouth deleted. Currently showing destination as Panama Canal.

December 28th 2013: In port at Wellington.

January 13th 2014: Inaugural sailing  from Wellington – Picton (NZ).

January 15th 2014: Broke down in Wellington Harbour. Technical problem caused both engines to shut down, affecting the control systems for one of the propellers.

“After the engine failure the ship was given a tug escort to an anchorage within the harbour where it remained until the Kaitaki ferry sailed out on its 9am sailing for Picton. Stena Alegra then berthed under its own power at the InterIslander ferry terminal about 9.30am and some shipping containers and trucks were driven off the vessel.”

“Teething problems with equipment, including issues with the raising and lowering of the ramp, some loading issues, and most recently an issue with the bow door. We can confirm that some improvements are being made to the bow door equipment by the ship’s owner as a warranty issue.”

January 16th 2014: Resumed service from Wellington to Picton.

January 19th 2014: Some sailings cancelled due to adverse weather (4 metre swells) in the Cook Strait.

April 8th 2014: Whilst berthing in Wellington during a Southerly gale the ship made heavy contact with a wharf sustaining a gash in her hull above the waterline. The ship was withdrawn from service for repairs.

April 14th 2014: Following hull repairs the vessel returned to service between Wellington and Picton.

May 8th 2014: Whilst underway a technical problem was detected with one of the ship’s two controllable pitch propellers. When the ferry returned to port in Wellington divers discovered part of one of the ship’s four propeller blades on one propeller was missing.  The Stena Alegra owners and ship’s classification society, Rina, agreed to a temporary and safe solution which allowed the ship to go back into service. The propeller was rebalanced by removing the propeller tip on the opposite blade to the damaged one.

May 14th 2014: Following successful sea trials to test the temporary repairs to the propeller the vessel returned to service between Wellington and Picton.

June 28th 2014: Having carried about 45,500 passengers, 34,300 vehicles and 11,900 trucks in 449 trips across the Cook Strait the Stena Alegra completed her charter to the Interislander Line.

July 6th 2014: Departed Wellington, New Zealand for Singapore to await further orders.

December 9th 2014: It was announced that the Stena Alegra will be chartered to the Interislander Line for 5 years replacing the Arahura.

The Interislander ferry Arahura will be replaced by the Stena Alegra from mid-2015, KiwiRail announced today. The Stena Alegra, used as a replacement vessel for the Aratere while she was in dry dock earlier this year, will be extensively upgraded before she arrives.

This will include new passenger facilities for up to 520 people, the fitting of external stabilisers, equipment upgrades and new gangway access. The Stena is a third bigger than Arahura.  She will be able to carry close to the same amount of freight in two return sailings as the Arahura can in three. KiwiRail will charter rather than purchase the ship, as is currently the case with Kaitaki. She will also be re-named and re-branded as part of the Interislander fleet.

“The Stena Alegra’s capacity gives us a big efficiency gains and future proofs our fleet for increased customer demand.” The owner of the vessel, Stena RoRo would carry out the upgrading work to meet Interislander requirements.  

“They are the largest owner of RoRo ships in the world and have considerable technical and project management expertise in refurbishing their vessels to meet the needs of their customers,”

Source: KiwiRail

© KiwiRail

© KiwiRail (Artists Impression)

July 15th 2015: Still in Singapore. Before returning to New Zealand, would undergo a refit to better suit the Wellington to Picton route. Noted as having been renamed KAIARAHI.

© Martin Klingsick

© Martin Klingsick (Singapore 08/04/2015)

September 11th 2015: Left Singapore bound for Wellington.

September 2015: Commenced service between Wellington and Picton.

© John Wilson  © John Wilson  

© John Wilson

© John Wilson

November 2019: Sold to Kiwirail Ltd and re-flagged to New Zealand. Continues service Wellington – Picton.

© Mark Willis  © Mark Willis 

© Mark Willis (Picton, 21/11/2019)

December 5th 2021: Arrived in Picton. The vessel is suffering from gearbox problems, necessitating repairs, which will not be completed until March 2022.

September 2022: Repaired and entered restricted service Picton – Wellington.

October 2022: To resume full service Picton – Wellington.

July 15th 2023: Left Wellington and sailed to Sembawang, Singapore.

July 30th 2023: Arrived Singapore to undertake its scheduled maintenance (expected to last 28 days).

September 4th 2023: Maintenance complete, left Singapore to resume service.

November 12th 2023:

“Out of action for a week after having a large hole ripped in its hull when berthing in Wellington. All sailings for Nov 13 had been cancelled, and that could continue for up to a week. All affected customers they would be offered an alternative sailing. Additional sailings of the ARATERE and KAITAKI have been added to make up for the cancelled KAIARAHI sailings and affected customers should wait to hear from Interislander about their new sailing time. The gash in the hull was about one metre across, well above the waterline-
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) was gathering information and had not yet made a decision on whether to investigate the damage to the KAIARAHI.”.

NZ Herald NZ Herald

🆕 NZ Herald

© Peter Henningsen

🆕 © Peter Henningsen (14/11/2023)

November 15th 2024: High winds in Wellington delayed the use of a crane for repairs. 

© Mark Leiper

© Mark Leiper (Wellington, 15/11/2023)

November 19th 2023: Resumed service Wellington – Picton.

March 12th 2024: Owing to a “mechanical fault”, sailings were restricted to “Freight Only”

March 14th 2024: Resumed service.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions found. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Ken Amsbury, Bartek / bratex, Stephen Brown, Ian Collard, Robbie Cox, Dover Strait Shipping,  Daniel Ferro, Robert Fournier, Tony Garner, Peter Henningsen, Martin Klingsick, Ken Larwood, Manuel Hernández Lafuente, Mark Leiper, John Mavin, Justin Merrigan, Simonwp, Carlos Moreno Trabat, Kim Viktor, Kustbevakningen – Swedish Coastguard, John Wilson, Mark Willis and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in compiling this feature.

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)

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