VESSEL REVIEW | Ika Rere – Electric catamaran enters service with New Zealand commuter ferry company

VESSEL REVIEW | Ika Rere – Electric catamaran enters service with New Zealand commuter ferry company

Photo: East by West Ferries

East by West Ferries, a commuter ferry operator based in Wellington, New Zealand, recently took delivery of a new locally-built, fully electric catamaran vessel.

Named Ika Rere (“Flying Fish”), the ferry was designed by local naval architecture firm SSC Marine and built by Wellington Electric Boat Building Company (WEBBCo) for round-trip sailings within the Greater Wellington area, particularly the stretch of Wellington Harbour between the Central Business District and Days Bay and Matiu/Somes Island. Both the owner and the builder claim the vessel is the first fully electric passenger ferry in service in the Southern Hemisphere.

The new ferry will operate using entirely electricity with no diesel generators and no solar panels while recharging will only be via shore power connection courtesy of a dedicated facility at Wellington’s Queens Wharf. The vessel complies with DNV and Maritime New Zealand regulations for electric vessels in terms of emergency/redundancy.

Photo: East by West Ferries

Ika Rere has carbon-fibre construction, a length of 19 metres, and main deck and open upper deck space for a total of 135 passengers, whereas East by West’s other active ferries are limited to only 99 passengers each. The composite construction for the new catamaran was developed by Gurit to be both lightweight and durable enough to withstand daily heavy use.

The entire electrical installation scope for the new ferry was supplied as part of a custom package from McKay. This package also included the vessel automation, the electric propulsion including the two 350kW motors, design and installation of the battery pack, and integration of onshore charging facilities.

McKay said the electrical system will allow the vessel to operate at a nominal service speed of 20 knots, running through commuter peak sailings followed by a relaxed mid-day schedule made possible by rapid charging. The service speed is another improvement as the owner’s older boats are limited to a service speed of 14 knots.

The electric propulsion also means quieter operation and lower maintenance costs compared to traditional diesel engines, which still power some of the ferries in the East by West fleet. Power for the batteries will be supplied by renewable electricity provided Meridian Energy. The 325kWh charging facility at Queens Wharf can fully replenish the batteries in as little as 90 minutes. The owner intends to upgrade the shore connection to yield an output of 1.25 MWh, which could then mean recharging can be completed in 15 minutes.

The vessel’s electronics suite includes a radar and displays from Simrad.

Ika Rere currently operates as part of the electric vehicle fleet of Metlink, the public transport wing of the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Photo: East by West Ferries

Click here to read other news stories, features, opinion articles, and vessel reviews as part of this month’s Passenger Vessel Week.

Ika Rere
Type of vessel: Ferry
Classification: DNV; Maritime New Zealand
Flag: New Zealand
Owner: East by West Ferries, New Zealand
Designer: SSC Marine, New Zealand
Builder: Wellington Electric Boat Building Company, New Zealand
Hull construction material: Carbon-fibre composite
Length overall: 19 metres
Propulsion: 2 x McKay, each 350 kW
Cruising speed: 20 knots
Batteries: McKay
Radar: Simrad
Other electronics: Simrad displays
Passengers: 135
Operational area: Wellington Harbour, New Zealand

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