The future of water transport setting sail in Wellington

The future of water transport setting sail in Wellington

After long delays the first fully electric passenger ferry in the Southern Hemisphere is set to launch in Wellington on December 16.

Construction first began in 2018 by the Wellington Electric Boat Building Company, a subsidiary of operator East by West Ferries.

The ferry was meant to launch in the middle of 2020, then in September this year, however Covid-19 delayed the project and subsequent sea trials.

In an interview with NewstalkZB Wellington Morning’s host Nick Mills, East by West Ferries managing director Jeremy Ward said they are going to ease the vessel into full service.

“We’ll be running around one to two sailings a day over the Christmas and New Year period. Then as we move into 2022 we’ll be looking to ramp it up into full service.

“It’s been an amazing journey and to be able to get it this far and have sailings under way before Christmas is fantastic.”

The future of water transport setting sail in Wellington

East by West Ferries Managing Director Jeremy Ward (right) told NewstalkZB's Nick Mills (left) they are going to ease the vessel into full service. Photo / Jack Crossland

Ward said they’ve received massive amounts of interest from overseas as it’s the way of the future.

“No one is building new boats at the moment, and why would you, we’ve all got to move towards more sustainable options, and this is the start of the journey.

“People can’t believe what we are doing here, and so we hope we’ll build many more not only for Wellington but for places overseas.”

The future of water transport setting sail in Wellington

The ferry was meant to launch in 2020, then in September of this year, but Covid-19 delayed the project and subsequent sea trials. Photo / Simon Hoyle

Once it begins service the 19-metre-long vessel will be able to transport up to 135 passengers to and from Wellington’s waterfront, Day’s Bay in Eastbourne and Somes Island.

Wellington Electric Boat Building Company managing director Fraser Foote said the results of testing had blown expectations away of all involved.

“It was expected to have an operating speed of 20 knots, but we’ve been able to get 24 knots and a half out of it, when we’ve tested it with 99 passengers on board it was travelling at 22 knots.

“It has a really nice point where at 19 and 10 knots it’s using far less energy than we ever expected.”

He said the boat is a prime example of state-of-the-art engineering and technology.

“It has five and a half tonnes of batteries on board under the floor, which sit under a fire boundary and are cooled by a huge system.

“At low speeds it’s basically silent, and at 19 knots you talk easily without any diesel fumes and almost no noise at all.”

Plans are already under way for what they’re going to do next, Foote said.

“The plan going forward is to produce two smaller versions to go from Queens Wharf to Miramar wharf/Wellington Airport, so they’ll be able to go about 25 knots so they’ll be able to do the trip in about eight minutes.

“So that will be a real change for Wellington, people being able to step off a plane, get on a shuttle to the wharf and then straight to Wellington’s CBD in eight minutes.”

“We hope to have some Government assistance with it, so hopefully in about two years’ time we will have those built.”

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