East by West, which runs ferries between Queen's Wharf in Wellington and Eastbourne on the other side of the harbour, have added Ika Rere — Flying Fish — to their service, sailing seven times a day.

The 19-metre catamaran is the first of its kind, and was custom built for East by West by Wellington Electric Boat Builders (WEBB). WEBB was formed by East by West CEO Jeremy Ward and boat builder Fraser Foote, who spotted a golden opportunity for a new industry in New Zealand, custom-building electric commuter boats.

It's just New Zealanders getting things done and looking to the future.

Jeremy Ward, CEO, East by West

East by West received $300,000 in co-funding from EECA for the project under the Technology Demonstration Fund.

Learn more about the Technology Demonstration Fund

EECA's Glenn Wellington says, "The Fund's designed to help early adopters of innovative technology to de-risk those projects. EECA's really excited to be supporting such an innovative project… it's designed in New Zealand for New Zealand conditions."

Ika Rere will charge at the wharf overnight, and in between sailings, which will provide enough power for the schedule, but there are additional plans to build more charging capacity over the next couple of years. It will save around 200,000 litres of diesel annually, which would cost $250,000, and WEBB estimates they'll save an additional $50,000 each year in maintenance costs. The electrification of the ferry means removal of over 480 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, equivalent to taking 177 cars off the road.

Fraser says that the new boat has already made waves in the sector, "we've had enquiries from all over the world – 70 plus projects. So we're poised to take on some orders and start a whole new industry in Lower Hutt."

And more of New Zealand could soon enjoy a low emissions, quiet ride if they're lucky enough to commute by sea. Jeremy says, "This is the future of waterborne transport, especially public transport."

Project at a glance

  • Southern Hemisphere's first all-electric commuter ferry.
  • Co-funded $300,000 through EECA's Technology Demonstration Fund.
  • A 19m catamaran can carry up to 130 passengers.
  • There are currently 1,200 commercial passenger vessels registered with maritime New Zealand: each electric ferry could save 100,000-300,000 litres of diesel per year.

Learn more