East by West Ferries’ 100% electric ferry, built by local business Wellington Electric Boat Building Company (WEBBCo), was launched in Seaview in August 2021, and will operate between Wellington’s Queens Wharf and Days Bay in Lower Hutt.
After a brief hiatus due to Covid lockdowns, the 19-metre carbon-fibre commuter ferry, which carries up to 135 passengers, entered service in late 2021.
Fraser Foote, Managing Director of the Wellington Electric Boat Building Company, says they have faced several challenges over the past 18 months due to Covid-19, so it’s wonderful to see the boat finally out on the water where it belongs.
“An increase in shipping costs coupled with severe delays of getting materials shipped to New Zealand has been challenging for us and has meant an extension to the critical path of the project. As an example: previously when we ordered fibreglass from America or Asia, it might have taken 6 weeks to arrive but now it’s more like 16 weeks.”
Foote says the only way around all of this is to work closely with your clients and be honest with them about what’s happening in the market.
“We are not putting timeframes on anything until we have a tightly defined scope of work,” he continues. “It’s not impossible, it just relies on working together and understanding that some things are out of your control.”
The Wellington Electric Boat Company is now looking to commercialise its product and is in the process of seeking investors that will allow them to develop and continue to develop their electric ferry offering.
“We have produced something that is pretty special. We’ve brought together different design and technology disciplines in a unique way, and that allows us to build commercial vessels that are lighter, faster, more cost-efficient – and have zero operating emissions. This type of ferry could be used in many different scenarios around NZ and overseas. We custom build each boat as operators have different needs depending on their route and location – but the overall design and build approach can be applied across the board. We’ve learned so much from this first fully electric ferry and we’ll be able to make further refinements with future boats, especially as electric propulsion technology continues to evolve.