KiwiRail's Cook Strait ferry Aratere has been officially welcomed back in a ceremony in Wellington after work to extend its length by 30 metres.[image:3206:half:right]
The 13-year-old ship spent five months in a Singapore shipyard undergoing the work, which also included a refit and a new bow.
The extension will allow the vessels to carry an additional 300 passengers and accommodate about 30% more rail freight, trucks and cars.
The new bow design will improve the ship's performance in heavy seas and reduce wash in the Marlborough Sounds.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn says the increased capability will help meet freight demands.
He says the extension was a massive project, taking 1.6 million man hours to complete, with up to 1000 people working on the ship on any given day.
The project cost $53 million - more than $10 million over budget - as the ship required much more work than was expected, including a new power management system.
The Transport Minister Steven Joyce says he's confident the budget blow out is a one off, and the KiwiRail board has assured him it won't be repeated.
Mr Quinn says the problems won't be repeated as KiwiRail has learnt from them.
The Aratere will resume sailing next week.