East By West Ferries have built New Zealand's first fully electric ferry. The catamaran has been launched with funding from Kiwibank and has saved 220,000kg of carbon emissions in the year it has been operating.

Jeremy Ward, CEO of East By West ferry service, was ahead of the times when he started thinking about how to provide a more sustainable ferry service 10 years ago. He explored options in Australia and Europe, but could not find what he wanted.

So, in partnership with Kiwibank, he decided East By West would build its own. He assembled a team of electric transport and boat building experts and work began on what became the prototype for the new business.


Watch our episode on East By West in our Business for Better series, created in partnership with TVNZ Sunday.

Made from durable carbon fibre and able to be charged at the wharf between sailings, the ferry has outperformed all its design criteria. It is faster and quieter than expected, has reduced the company's energy spend by 55 per cent while its carbon emissions saving is far more than expected.

The project has not been all plain sailing. During the build, East By West dealt with Covid lockdowns, supply chain delays, huge variability in patronage and a much more complicated period of sea trials and commissioning.

As a result, Mat Jonsson, General Manager says, they needed an understanding, knowledgeable and supportive backer, which was found in Kiwibank.

It's the future of water transport, particularly public (water) transport and a first of its kind.
Jeremy Ward, CEO

Kiwibank's Head of Asset Finance, Matt Miller, says the bank tailored its offering to a unique proposition during an equally unprecedented global pandemic . “We did that because we knew what we were going into, which was a start-up venture that had a significant amount of the unknown, and so we had to be able to pivot throughout the process.”

Just as the electric ferry is a trailblazer in New Zealand, Kiwibank’s funding is also a trailblazer. Miller says the bank stepped outside its normal asset finance lending focus on the likes of transport, earthmoving, forestry and plant and machinery.

The proposition’s sustainability credentials more than balanced the risk that this had never been done in New Zealand. Miller adds funding the ferry epitomises the perception shift he is encouraging within his team, and Kiwibank as a whole organisation, by supporting ground-breaking, sustainable projects by Kiwi.

The ferry is a project that has enabled Kiwibank to live its purpose - Kiwi helping Kiwi - and proving the bank’s sustainable values by doing what is right.
Matt Miller, Kiwibank's Head of Asset Finance

Above all, Miller says Kiwibank liked the fact that East By West wasn’t just building an electric ferry to impact their bottom line. They were doing it because it was the right thing to do.

“The way we were able to get this across the line was by asking the right questions up front, and throughout the project, to have a full understanding of the asset and the business. If it wasn't for extensive research and risk assessment resulting in curated expertise, we wouldn't have got there.

They’ve done it with Kiwi designers, builders, suppliers and expertise, and they now have the intellectual property to replicate it. That's the real success of this project.”

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