Firefighters have boarded a Fullers passenger ferry at sea after a blaze broke out in its engine, leaving one crew member suffering from smoke inhalation.

Smoke was visible inside the cabin of the ferry travelling from Waiheke Island to Auckland City, leading to all 97 passengers on board being moved on to the outside deck.

A boat carrying firefighters rushed to meet the ferry at sea, but the fire had already been put out by the time the fire crew boarded the vessel.

The Coastguard then escorted the ferry into dock.

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Fire and Emergency NZ personnel scrambled to the ferry terminal in downtown Auckland to await the ferry's arrival.

When it docked three people were checked over by St John paramedics. One person was in a moderate condition but didn't require transport to hospital. Two others didn't require treatment, a St John spokeswoman said.

Fire on Fullers' Waiheke ferry

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Thursday, 31 October 2019

Journalists at the scene said they understood the patients had suffered from smoke inhalation.

Fullers apologised for the fire, saying its "professionally trained crew" acted proactively to put it out.

It recommended ferry passengers planning to travel between Auckland and Waiheke this evening keep an eye on the company's MyFerry App and website for information on whether there would be disruptions to other services.

Passenger Mel was on board the ferry and said everyone was evacuated to the upper deck when the fire broke out.

"Then we were allowed back into the middle deck, but we had to go about 7 knots the rest of the way," she said. "It was a slow journey."

A Fullers spokeswoman confirmed "a small fire" started in the starboard engine room.

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"With a proactive response from our professionally trained crew, the fire was quickly identified and extinguished," she said.

"Customers and crew were moved to the upper deck for their safety and comfort in accordance with our incident response plan."

She said two crew members suffered smoke inhalation.

"We apologise to customers on board for any distress and disruption caused by this incident," she said.

"Safety is our number one priority, ensuring customer and crew wellbeing onboard. This is an isolated event and we are now fully investigating the cause of the fire.

"We recommend customers keep an eye on their MyFerry app and our website for updates on our scheduled ferry services."

Fire and Emergency NZ shift manager Craig Dally earlier also confirmed the fire had been in one of the engines of the passenger ferry and was since extinguished.

Fire appliances at the scene. Photo / Will Trafford
Fire appliances at the scene. Photo / Will Trafford

An Auckland Transport spokeswoman said the fire occurred in the Fullers Quick Cat ferry, which was en route back from Waiheke Island for the 2pm service.

The ferry was forced to make its way to Auckland using one engine and travelling at 7.5 knots. There were 97 passengers on board and five crew members. Police were notified of the incident. Firefighters met the ferry on Pier 2 with hoses at the ready as a precaution. There was no sign of smoke or damage to the vessel.

Fire crews at the scene. Photo / Michael Craig
Fire crews at the scene. Photo / Michael Craig

Passenger Virginia Mackinnon said the slower speed of the ferry after the fire added about an hour to the trip.