The Interislander is set to replace its ageing fleet with two new, more environmentally-friendly Cook Strait ferries from 2025.
It comes after KiwiRail and Korean shipyard Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD) signed a binding contract for the delivery of two new, state-of-the-art ferries, with the first to arrive in 2025 and the second in 2026, KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said in a statement today.
The contract for the two ferries - to the tune of $551 million - was signed after years of research and planning, leading to negotiations with the shipyard over the last four months, Miller said.
“KiwiRail has been working on the ferry upgrade project for years and signing this contract with Hyundai Mipo Dockyard is a momentous day for us at KiwiRail and our shipping operation, the Interislander."
Interislander operates around 3800 ferry services a year, transporting about 850,000 passengers, 250,000 cars and billions of dollars worth of freight.
“With an ageing fleet of ships coming to the end of their working lives, this replacement programme had become time critical, so it’s great news that we are now able to move ahead with the next stage of design and the build of the two new ferries, and required port infrastructure,” Miller said.
The ferries are expected to contribute to a "40 per cent reduction in Interislander’s carbon emissions immediately" after its rollout and will be "future-proofed" to provide further carbon reduction over time.
The company says they will also offer more choice of onboard services including accommodation, entertainment, and food and beverages.
The two rail-enabled ferries, when running at full operating capacity, will be able to carry nearly double the current number of passengers, and commercial and passenger vehicles.
The rail freight capacity will also triple. Currently, Interislander's rail-enabled ferry Aratere can carry a maximum of 27, sixty-foot equivalent wagons per sailing. The two new rail-enabled ships will be able to carry 40, sixty-foot equivalent wagons per vessel on up to three return sailings each per day - a 300 per cent increase in capacity at peak.
Interislander says the terminal infrastructure at Kaiwharawhara, in Wellington, and Waitohi Picton, will be improved as part of a $1.45 billion ferry upgrade project to meet modern standards and to accommodate the new ferries.