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Electric ferry service promoted as ‘shovel ready’

21 Apr 2020  By Chris Hutching | |

East By West Ferries is developing an electric ferry. Image: East By West

Electric ferries may become a feature in Wellington if an application for a “shovel ready” project is accepted by the Government.

East By West Ferries operates the Wellington to Days Bay to Eastbourne ferry route and plans a new ferry service from central Wellington to the airport and Miramar Peninsula.

The first electric ferry is being built in Wellington, and a second one would ply the airport service, which would require multi-million dollar refurbishment of Miramar Wharf.

East By West Ferries managing director Jeremy Ward said he was unsure exactly how the “shovel ready” funding worked but was keen to highlight the ferry service.

“We’re three quarters of the way through building our first electric ferry for the Days Bay route later this year. We can build it for less than $5m. The wharf is owned by CentrePort which is owned by the regional council.

The carbon-composite ferry was in the final stages of construction in Wellington by subsidiary company, Wellington Electric Boat Building Company.

“Refurbishment of the wharf could cost from $5m to $15m and I doubt we would end up owning it but we would be the ferry operator,” Ward said.

“At under $25 million for all the infrastructure needed, it’s a bargain compared with the costs of new roading projects, and its much, much greener.”

Ward said his company had been developing the new airport and Miramar ferry project for two years.

“Our recent investment in the ferry construction workshops, ferry designs and ferry manufacturing equipment mean that our costs and risks for the airport ferries are lower than if this was our first electric ferry.

“We can guarantee a city to airport door journey of under 20 minutes. Miramar Peninsula and Seatoun residents will have a fast, reliable commuting option to the city, with easy access to Miramar Wharf by cycling, walking and local public bus services.”

A dedicated electric shuttle bus service would transfer passengers along Cobham Drive to the airport.

The 100-year-old Miramar Wharf has been closed to the public since 2015 and is in need of refurbishment before it can be opened again. The project costs include working with CentrePort to renew the Wharf.

The airport route would cater for 2500 a year. It would also include installation of a 1.2MW ultra-fast charger for the ferries at Queen’s Wharf and renewal of the Miramar Wharf, including reopening general public access.

For finance, Ward envisaged co-funding with NZ Transport Agency and even possible ownership of the ferries by the regional council, depending on the most desirable structure for the enterprise.

NZTA funds electric ferries and charging infrastructure if they are publicly owned by regional councils, in order to remove the barrier of high up-front costs for electric ferry operators in long term infrastructure assets.

Discussions had been under way with NZTA, and Callaghan Innovation has funded about $200,000 of the first electric ferry design research. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority had also provided co-funding of $100,000 to be paid on the launch of the new ferry.

East By West Ferries has secured existing loan finance from its own resources and its bankers Kiwibank and Kiwi Asset Finance to complete the first electric ferry.

Talks were underway with the New Zealand Green Investment Fund to become a part funder of the existing electric ferry project and this new proposed central city to airport ferry service.

The time for construction of both ferries and the wharf upgrade would take about 24 months.


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