June 29, 2022
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Energy Minister Megan Woods is expected to announce on Tuesday that funding for electric ferries to Auckland has been approved. Photo / Mark Tantrum
Electric ferries finally arrive in Auckland. The Herald has learned from several sources that the government has approved funding for the immediate construction of two electric ferries for the Port of Waitematā.
Minister of Energy
and Megan Woods Resources will make the announcement next Tuesday.
The ferries will be built in Auckland and used on inland and intermediate port routes including Devonport, Hobsonville Pt and Half Moon Bay. They are expected to enter service in 2024.
The government will contribute $27 million towards the cost of the ferries and associated wharf infrastructure. This will include fast charging facilities. The ferries will be owned by Auckland Transport, which is expected to solicit bids from operators for their use.
The move follows an earlier proposal from ferry operators Fullers360 and a local company called EV Maritime, which is a subsidiary of the Tāmaki Estuary-based shipbuilding company McMullen & Wing. This proposal was for three ferries designed by EV Maritime, as the first step in a larger program to develop an electronic ferry industry in the city.
But as the Herald reported in March last year, Auckland Council did not promote this proposal in its application for ‘ready to start’ funding through the Infrastructure Reference. Group (IRG). Instead, electronic ferries have been relegated to a non-priority item of “more ferries”.
The IRG did not recommend the e-ferries to Cabinet, but the proposal was sent for analysis to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).
The Herald understands that the EECA has done due diligence on the plan and now has a detailed business case. EV Maritime’s designs are complete and construction could begin “within weeks”, according to a source.
Both ferries will have an internal capacity of around 200 people, with additional outdoor seating, bike storage and onboard cafes. They will have a carbon fiber composite construction, using state-of-the-art New Zealand technology in this field.
The ferries will not be able to be used on other routes such as Waiheke and Gulf Harbour, although this may change with future e-ferry services. Currently, Waiheke does not have the electrical capacity to recharge, which would affect the efficiency of ferries on this route.
Auckland is not the leader in e-ferries. Wellington last month became the first city in the southern hemisphere to offer an all-electric passenger ferry service. East by West’s new Ika Rere (flying fish) ferry now operates between Days Bay and the city center with a capacity of 135, compared to 99 on the old diesel ferries.
Ika Rere was built in the Hutt Valley by the Wellington Electric Boat Building Company and, like the planned EV Maritime/McMullen & Wing ferries, has a carbon fiber composite construction.
These companies are now poised to develop an industry with the potential “to drive $500 million to $900 million in sustainable construction activity,” with “300 highly skilled jobs,” according to Fullers and other sources last year. Their electric ferries also have the potential to save millions of tons of carbon emissions.
The minister’s office said it would not comment until Tuesday’s announcement.