Southern hemisphere’s first electric ferry launched in Wellington

The first fully electric, high speed passenger ferry in the southern hemisphere was officially launched today in Wellington, where the locally built vessel will sail commuters across Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

Constructed by the Wellington Electric Boat Building Company, the 19-metre Ika Rere is powered by Meridian Energy for Metlink public transport services and owned and operated by East by West Ferries. 

East by West managing director Jeremy Ward said the ferry had energised his company’s vision of Wellington as a sustainable, smart city.

“Complementing our goal of using Wellington’s harbour-based geography to reduce transport emissions, Ika Rere will also deliver a comfortable and reliable service for passengers.

“Her electric power unit is quieter and smoother with fewer moving parts than a diesel engine. That means less maintenance and less disruption to the sailing schedule.”

Made from carbon fibre, the light yet durable catamaran can transport up to 132 passengers at a speed of 20 knots. East by West’s existing diesel-powered vessels are slower and carry a third fewer passengers.

The zero emissions ferry will join the electric vehicle fleet of Metlink, the public transport wing of the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Greater Wellington chair Daran Ponter said Ika Rere would empower customers to choose a renewable method of commuting between Eastbourne and the city.

“It’s wonderful to have a homegrown, sustainable public transport option alongside our electric buses. Ika Rere is driving Wellington’s journey to carbon neutrality.” 

Meridian chief customer officer Lisa Hannifin said her company was proud to be propelling the maritime innovation. 

“As a generator of 100% renewable energy, Meridian is delighted to be supporting the first fully electric passenger ferry. It proves the potential for the electrification of transport to disrupt the status quo while reducing the impact of climate change. 

“Our partnership also allows East by West to support 100% renewable energy generation through our Certified Renewable Energy product, enabling them to report their Scope 2 electricity emissions as zero.”

Following sea trials, Ika Rere is at the final stage of gaining its survey certificate from Maritime New Zealand. The ferry will then enter East by West’s commissioning process, in which crews are trained and the boat tested on wharves and routes, while periodically being used on some public sailings.

Ika Rere is expected to enter fully into service before the end of March 2022.