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MV Kaitaki (ex Isle of Innisfree (II)) – Past and Present

IMO Number: 9107942

MV Kaitaki

ex Challenger, Stena Challenger, Pride of Cherbourg, Isle of Innisfree (II)

© Capt Jan Melchers

© Capt Jan Melchers

Steel twin screw motor vessel built in 1995 by Van der Giessen-De Noord, Krimpen aan den IJssel, Holland (Yard No 963) as RoPax ferry for Irish Ferries, Dublin

Technical Data

  • Length: 181.6 m (overall) 173.5 m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth: 23.40 m
  • Depth: m
  • Draught: 5.60 m
  • Tonnage: 22365 gross/6732 net/5794t deadweight
  • Engines: 4 x Sulzer 8ZAL40” diesels
  • Power: 23040 kW/HP
  • Speed: 21 knots
  • Decks: 10
  • Capacity: 1650/1350 passengers 600 cars/ 1780 lane metres
  • Call Sign: EIBW, VQAA9, ZMKI
  • MMSI Number: 512445000
  • IMO Number: 9107942
  • Official Number: 40306
  • Port of Registry: Dublin/Republic of Ireland 🇮🇪, Nassau/Bahamas 🇧🇸, Portsmouth/UK 🇬🇧, Dublin/Republic of Ireland 🇮🇪, Wellington/New Zealand 🇳🇿

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.


August 3rd 1994: Keel struck.

January 25th 1995: Launched.

© Pieter Inpyn  © Pieter Inpyn

© Pieter Inpyn (March 1995)

© Andreas Wörteler

© Andreas Wörteler (29/04/1995)

May 15th 1995: Delivered to Irish Continental Group. Manager; Irish Ferries Ltd, Dublin, Ireland.

May 23rd 1995: Commenced services between Dublin – Holyhead.

March 3rd 1997: Final service between Dublin – Holyhead.

April 18th 1997: Services between Rosslare – Pembroke Dock.

May 16th 2001: Last day in service.

May 2001: Proposed charter to Pan Adriatico, Italy and name change to VULCANIA did not materialise.

May 17th 2001: Laid up in Dublin.

June 14th 2001: Laid up in Le Havre.

March 2002: Chartered to P&O Portsmouth, Portsmouth, England.

June 6th 2002: Berthing trials in Cherbourg and Portsmouth.

July 1st 2002: To A&P, Falmouth for refit.

August 12th 2002: Renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG.

August 27th 2002: Berthing trials in Cherbourg.

September 12th 2002: Commenced services between Portsmouth – Cherbourg.

© Gary Davies

© Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic)

October 15th 2002: P&O Ferries between Portsmouth – Cherbourg.

© Andreas Wörteler   © Andreas Wörteler 

© Andreas Wörteler (Cherbourg, 21/05/2004)

© Andreas Wörteler  © Andreas Wörteler 

© Andreas Wörteler (Cherbourg, 22/05/2004)

© Robert J Smith  © Derek Longly

© Robert J Smith (Portsmouth, 10/06/2004)(Left) and © Derek Longly (Portsmouth, July 2004)(Right)

January 14th 2005: Completed service between Portsmouth – Cherbourg.

January 2005: Chartered to Stena RoRo, Gothenburg..

January 16th 2005: Left Portsmouth for Gdansk

January 19ty 2005: Arrived at Remontowa, Gdansk, Poland.

January 2005: Renamed STENA CHALLENGER.

February 7th 2005 – June 7th 2005: Chartered to Stena Line for services between Karlskrona – Gdynia.

© Andreas Wörteler

© Andreas Wörteler (Karlskrona)

© Jakub Bogucki  © Jakub Bogucki

© Jakub Bogucki

© Jakub Bogucki

June 2005: Upon completion of her charter she again sailed to Remontowa, Gdansk for refit.

June 2005: Chartered to Toll Shipping, Wellington, New Zealand and renamed CHALLENGER.

June 26th 2005: Arrived in Uddevalla for loading..

June 28th 2005: Left Uddevalla for Azores – Panama – Peru – Papeete – Wellington.

August 14th 2005: Arrived in Wellington New Zealand.

August 20th 2005: Displayed in Wellington.

August 22nd 2005: Commenced services for Interislander between Picton – Wellington.

April 17th 2007: Renamed KAITAKI.

© John Wilson  © John Wilson

© John Wilson (Brisbane, 01/08/2013)

© John Wilson  © John Wilson

© John Wilson

© John Wilson (Brisbane, 07/09/2013)

September 15th 2016: Registered Owner; Zatarga Ltd.

May 2017: Sold to Toll Shipping, (KiwiRail) Wellington, New Zealand.

2020: Still in service Picton – Wellington.

July 2021: It was announced that the Kaitaki and her fleet mates would be replaced by two new builds in 2025/26.

Half-billion-dollar contract to build two new Interislander ferries signed

KiwiRail has signed a $551 million contract with Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard to build two new Interislander ferries to replace the existing fleet.The new ferries would “nearly double” passenger capacity and were expected to arrive in New Zealand in 2025 and 2026. Kiwirail has previously said the ferries were intended to arrive in 2024 and 2025.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said the two new, rail-enabled, ferries would help reduce transport emissions and support more goods and people crossing the Cook Strait.

“Our transport emissions are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand, so we need to start taking action now if we are going to meet our 2050 targets,” Wood said. He said the new ferries would reduce the Interislander’s carbon emissions by 40 percent, partly by using by battery power for manoeuvring.

Wood said more batteries can be added over time and could the ships could be modified to run on other low-carbon fuels like hydrogen as they became available.

“The Cook Strait ferries are crucial to our economy, carrying 5.5 million tonnes of freight and 850,000 passengers between the North and South Islands every year,” he said. The new ferries would triple the rail freight capacity of the current fleet, which would support the expected growth in the route, Wood said.

“Being able to accommodate rail wagons on the new ferries will encourage more freight onto trains and off roads, which will also help reduce emissions.”

The Road Transport Forum questioned why the Government was still focused on rail transport when road offered more flexibility.

“Anything that widens the amount of freight that’s taken over the Cook Strait has got to be a positive thing, but I don’t think there’s one territory in the world that’s building rail ferries at the moment,” the forum’s chief executive Nick Leggett said.

“Naturally, we’re concerned about that because rail freight doesn’t have the flexibility that road freight has.”

KiwiRail said after the first ferry arrived in 2025, it would allow a period of time to bed it in, work through any issues and undertake crew training before the second ferry arrived the following year.

The current ferries would likely be sold once the new ferries were in service and there had been a period of transition.

Source: Stuff New Zealand

January 28th 2023:

“The 2.15pm sailing of Kaitaki from Picton temporarily lost propulsion power near the end of its journey to Wellington.

Power has now been restored and the anchors lifted. Kaitaki is now underway.

The approximately 800 passengers plus 80 crew onboard are safe, however, as is standard practice, life jackets have been issued as a precaution.

Tug boats have left Wellington and will be used to assist, if required, as Kaitaki makes her way back to the Kaiwharawhara terminal.

We have notified authorities and set up a team to coordinate our response to this situation.

We are focused on ensuring the comfort and wellbeing of passengers, are keeping them updated, and will offer additional support when they arrive in Wellington.

We will be investigating the cause of the temporary loss of power.”

“The fault that caused a loss of power on Saturday has been identified and is in the process of being fixed.

“The root cause was a fault in the ship’s engine cooling system.”.

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All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Jakub Bogucki, Gary Davies (Maritime Photographic), Pieter Inpyn, Derek Longly, Capt Jan Melchers, Robert J Smith, John Wilson and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.

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

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