Southern Hemisphere’s first all-electric passenger ferry begins sea trials

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

New Zealand’s first fully electric passenger ferry is in the water, scheduled to go into commercial service on September 9. 

The 19m-long carbon fibre ferry, with a passenger capacity of 135, will traverse the harbour of the country’s capital city Wellington, ferrying people between the city’s CBD, the seaside suburb of Days Bay and Somes Island, aka Matiu Island. 

For the next month, the ferry – named Ika Rere –will undergo sea trials overseen by its manufacturer Wellington Electric Boat Building Company (Webbco) before being handed over to operator East by West

It is the first electric ferry to go into service in the Southern Hemisphere and is set to be joined soon by another electric ferry under development in Auckland, in the country’s north.

“While the quiet hum of an electric boat is a much more pleasurable experience for passengers, this project is driven by our desire to take climate action,” said East by West MD Jeremy Ward. 

Southern Hemisphere's first all-electric passenger ferry begins sea trials

“Our two other diesel ferries use about 250,000 litres of fuel a year between them. That’s not sustainable for the planet and I knew electrification was the answer. I was surprised to discover we were the first in New Zealand to be doing it, but we didn’t let that hold us back.”

Work on the ferry began three years ago, with the ambitious project originally scheduled to launch in mid-2020 before being delayed by Covid. 

Fraser Foote, the MD of WebbCo, which was created to build electric vessels, cites a collaborative approach with a team of New Zealand maritime experts alongside the company’s in-house team for getting the boat onto the water.

Southern Hemisphere's first all-electric passenger ferry begins sea trials

Other partners in the project were lightweighting and composites experts Gurit, electrotechnology company McKay, designers SSC Marine, consultancy Retyna, design specialists Kit Carlier Design, and power-supply company Meridian Energy.

The government-funded Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Callaghan helped fund the project.

Tony Stanton, head of engineering at Gurit Asia Pacific added: “This may be a first for New Zealand, but it certainly won’t be the only one. We see great potential for commercially operated electric vessels throughout New Zealand waterways.”

Southern Hemisphere's first all-electric passenger ferry begins sea trials

Images: Simon Hoyle, Southlight, via WebbCo’s Facebook page.

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill is a content writer with more than 30 years of experience in five countries. His style has built upon award-winning success in news and features in the print media to leadership in digital communication, spanning news websites, social media, magazines, brochures, and contributing to books. Recognising the devastating impact of consumer behaviour on the planet and wanting to help make a difference Robert launched Viable.Earth as a platform to celebrate positive contributions by brands, companies and individuals towards reducing environmental impact and improve sustainability – especially in the fields of fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, and transportation.


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    Is it wheelchair accessible?


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