Authority grounds Shotover Jet boats
06 January 2006

Tourist attraction Shotover Jet has been taken off the water indefinitely by Maritime New Zealand because of chronic engine problems.

Maritime New Zealand deputy director of monitoring and compliance Bruce Maroc said yesterday the company had to demonstrate and give verification to the authority that its "operational procedures" of boats and crew were problem free before it could restart.

"We (the authority) have identified operational problems with the boats and staff and these are now being addressed by the company."

Mr Maroc said the authority was not in control of fixing the problems, the company was.

"When they believe they are ready, then it needs to be verified and checked out with us."

However, Mr Maroc did not expand on what the "operational" problems entailed.

The company shut down on New Year's Day for the second time in two weeks after the engine on one of its boats caught fire and burned out.

The company had also closed just days before Christmas to investigate engine problems in its fleet of boats.

The Southland Times understands the shutdown could be costing the company as much as $100,000 a day based on 1000 passengers a day during peak season at $99 a person.

On that basis, the company would have already missed out on about $600,000.

The company has had continuing problems with wear in engines in the new-model boats that were introduced in 2003. Up to 60 engines are understood to have malfunctioned or blown since then.

It is now understood that the new supercharged V6 engines and twin Hamilton jets are under too much pressure and getting stressed.

These V6 engines are different to the standard V8 engines used by other commercial jetboat operations.

The Southland Times understands that because V6 engines are being run about 4000rpm, it puts a heavy load on the engines and as a result they became stressed a lot faster than normal.

Shotover Jet general manager Rick Tau said yesterday modifications were being made to the boats.

It was essential for the company to be completely satisfied that operations met safety standards and this was taking longer than originally anticipated, Mr Tau said.

A comprehensive review of the fuelling system was under way, along with making modifications to the entire jetboat fleet, he said.

"These modifications will be thoroughly tested then approved by the appropriate authorities before the boats come back into operation. We take our position as New Zealand's leading jetboat operator very seriously and we will not jeopardise that in any way" .

The Southland Times