22 Aug 2023

Auckland Transport gets moving on low emission ferry programme

8:31 pm on 22 August 2023
EV Maritime has been commissioned to build the low emission fleet for Auckland Transport.

AT is looking for an operator for its fleet of environmentally friendly vessels. Photo: Supplied

Auckland Transport hopes its new electric fleet will bring a sea change for ferry commuters.

Fullers360 last week said it was scrapping some of its Auckland ferry services because of a staffing shortage.

From 1 October, Fullers will cease to ply the Birkenhead, Te Onewa Northcote Point, and Bayswater routes.

AT is now looking for a new operator for its under-construction fleet of environmentally friendly vessels.

Two aluminium hybrid electric boats are being built in Whanganui, with the ability to carry 300 passengers.

And in Auckland, two zero-emission electric boats are in the works, able to carry 200 commuters.

The first two zero-emission vessels will be out on the water for tests in 2024, before being operational for passenger trips in 2025.

EV Maritime was commissioned to build the boats. Its chief executive Michael Eaglen said the vessels were a big move in the push for zero emissions.

"Leaping into this move of electrification is a significant thing for Auckland transport to be doing," he said.

EV Maritime - Auckland Transport vessels being built at McMullen & Wing - August 2023

Auckland Transport low emission vessels being built at McMullen & Wing, EV Maritime. Photo: Supplied

Eaglen said the new boats were built to outlast the older fleet, half of which were expected to reach the end of their life over the next 10 years.

"When you've been in the industry, as I have, for 25 years, the idea of boats that you've worked on in your career coming to end of life already, it makes you feel old," he said.

"We really believe in engineering out end-of-life in our products, and so to us building that longevity into boats is a really important piece."

AT low emission ferry programme director Nathan Cammock said the vessels would succeed where older ones had failed.

"We're looking at the capacity, so when you turn up to a ferry terminal you expect to be able to get on the boat, you expect to be able to get your bike onto the boat, and that's simply not the case at the moment," he said.

Cammock said the boats were being lined up for some of the routes Fullers had just pulled out of.

"We haven't quite nailed down yet which operator will operate them and which routes they'll be on, what we do know is they'll likely be on one of the inner or mid-harbour routes, so the likes of Hobsonville Point or Half-Moon Bay, or Birkenhead/Bayswater."

Birkenhead and Bayswater were getting cut in October, meaning AT would need to find a new operator.

EV Maritime has been commissioned to build the low emission fleet for Auckland Transport.

An artist's impression of the interiors of the new vessel. Photo: Supplied

Auckland councillor and council's transport committee chair John Watson said it was the perfect time to bring in someone new.

"We're beyond the sell-by date now, of bringing competition in [...] we have people trying to get into the market, trying to get in operations and they've found that really difficult," he said.

He wanted significant improvements to the city's ferry network.

"The latest announcement promises another 18 months of reduced services," he said.

"There's no public transport system in the world that can afford to function with that degree of cancellation."

Watson said the delays that came with Fullers reduced services were simply not good enough.

"Auckland is a maritime city, the city has a proud maritime history, we should be doing a lot better than what we're doing at the moment, particularly with climate change imperatives, we should have ferries going to all parts of the Auckland region," he said.

In a statement to RNZ, Fullers360 said it was essential that all transport leaders worked together to resolve the challenges facing the public transport network.

It said it had a healthy, long-term strategic partnership with Auckland Transport.

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