Auckland 2021: How will city’s transport system cope with APEC and America’s Cup?

 

Five international events, prompting billions of dollars of redevelopment and bringing tens of thousands of visitors – 2021 will put Auckland in the world spotlight. But how will it transform the city and what benefits will it really bring? In the fourth in our series, we look at transport.

Auckland’s visitor influx for an unprecedented series of major events in 2021 will benefit from major investment in transport networks, but little is known about how world leaders will move around during the APEC conference near the end of the year.

Dedicated lanes for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation were marked out in parts of the CBD when a much smaller edition of the political gathering was hosted in Auckland in 1999.

“We would envisage there will be some streets closed for short periods of time,”

said Andrea Smith, the deputy secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who is overseeing the APEC hosting.

“People transfer from one venue to another so there might be some few minutes where parts of streets are closed to allow that motorcade movement to take place,” she said.

The mid-November Leaders’ Week will have the most intense impact, with top politicians from 21 nations invited, in a week with 10,000 mostly-foreign participants.

Some leaders may bring their own motorcades.

“The leaders themselves only come at the end of the week so the real transport and logistic movements with motorcades will cause the added complexity on late Thursday, but certainly Friday, Saturday and Sunday is when the major impact will be,” Smith told Stuff.

Little information has been made public about how world leaders will move around during the APEC conference next year.

The dignitaries and their entourages won’t have an unobstructed run around the city centre, with Albert Street likely to be partially closed as the City Rail Link tunnelling works moves gradually southwards.

Auckland Transport is giving little away about how the city will adapt to the demands of APEC particularly, and whether there will be public transport promotions linked to other major events, but it said planning was underway.

“It’s too early to talk about specifics like road closures and public transport but it is fair to say there will be some pressure on Auckland’s roads, in particular, during the APEC event,” said a spokesperson in a statement.

Past initiatives have included the issuing of free AT HOP electronic ticket cards for contestants and volunteers for the World Masters Games in 2017.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, center, gestures beside U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at APEC 2018 in Papua New Guinea.

The city’s biggest transport innovation in 2021 may come in the form of a pair of Auckland-designed and built electric ferries.

“That’s our dream at the moment to have proven electric ferries on the harbour and an announcement about a fleet of electric ferries, during APEC leaders’ week – that would have so much resonance,” said Michael Eaglen, chief executive of Panmure-based EV Maritime.

The offshoot of boat builders McMullen and Wing is developing a prototype, carbon fibre high-speed commuter ferry, for which it hopes to find a global market.

Eaglen said a launch during the America’s Cup in March might be tight, with May a more likely date, and saw APEC as a chance to showcase the vessel globally.

Visitors arriving for the America’s Cup final in March probably won’t get to use the latest major station on Auckland’s rail network, but APEC participants in November who fancy a genuine public transport trip in from the airport, can experience the $60 million Puhinui Station.

It won’t be the fastest way into the CBD, but taking the frequent 380 bus to the Puhinui interchange, will connect them to a train into the Britomart terminus.

Auckland’s expanded fleet of 72 electric trains should be fully in service shortly before 2021, meaning more trains will run as six-carriage sets, and the network will be at full stretch until the next fleet expansion, which may come following the opening of the City Rail Link in 2024.

Transport advocates greaterauckland.org.nz said the America’s Cup and APEC offered quite different opportunities and challenges around public transport.

For the short-sharp impact of APEC leader’s week, Greater Auckland’s Matt Lowrie said the city needed to pump up public transport to keep motorists out of cars, in the CBD particularly.

“Running park services throughout the day, keeping bus lanes open all day so people can travel later,” Lowrie told Stuff

The America’s Cup defence which returns in 2021 drew big crowds in Auckland in 2003.

He saw the America’s Cup, spread over several months, as a chance to encourage people to use rental e-bikes, and on busy race days, keeping cars away from Wynyard Quarter where thousands of fans are expected.

Lowrie referenced the transport chaos on the opening night of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, when an estimated 200,000 people swamped the inner city, and the train system ground to a halt at game time, struggling to cope with double the number of passengers expected.

Auckland has since significantly expanded the transport network, with new electric trains, double-decker buses, and has acquired years of experience moving special event crowds on trains and buses.

Cycling advocacy group Bike Auckland said it hoped an influx of tourists might encourage the growth of bike and electric bike hire numbers for visitor use, which might also encourage more Aucklanders to try cycling.

“Hire e-bikes – like Jump starting in Feb – will also be a very interesting development, as they can overcome people’s concerns that “Auckland is too hilly to cycle,” said its chair Barb Cuthbert.

Cuthbert said a range of still under-construction cycle ways should be ready for 2021, such as part of Tamaki Drive, Karangahape Road and Victoria Street.

Electric ferries: Auckland’s first-built in water in 2021

An Auckland firm hopes to be taking orders next year for a carbon-fibre, battery-powered commuter ferry it is developing for a global market.

EV Maritime has been spun-off from established boat-builder McMullen and Wing, with the aim of becoming an early leader globally in electric fast ferries.

Auckland’s Fullers’ Ferries has invested $300,000 in the firm’s research and development over the past year, making an advance payment on a first order.

EV Maritime CEO Michael Eaglen at the McMullen and Wing boatyard in Mt Wellington, Auckland

EV Maritime said the timing was perfect, with Auckland’s need to overhaul its ferry fleet, combined with the evolution of battery technology and the increasing focus on tackling climate change.

“We do have a vision of carving out a meaningful niche globally in zero-emission fast ferries,”

said Michael Eaglen, who shifted from being the chief executive at McMullen and Wing, to co-found and head the ferry project as a joint venture.

Artist impression of the carbon-fibre battery powered fast ferry being developed by Auckland’s EV Maritime.

Design is well-advanced on a carbon fibre ferry which EV Maritime hopes can be trialled in Auckland ahead of the APEC Leaders’ Week in November 2021, where it could showcase this country’s marine industry.

Eaglen said while there were a few other firms internationally working on a handful of electric fast-ferries, New Zealand had a chance to be a world leader.

A similar project is underway in the capital, where the Wellington Electric Boat Building Company is working with East by West ferries on a cross-harbour vessel to enter service in mid-2020.

EV Maritime’s R&D “Lead” Garry Jolliffe working on the planned carbon-fibre battery ferry, in Auckland

EV Maritime said its concept was more than just a fast ferry with battery power, with a strong focus on technology to make it easier and more efficient to run.

In addition to the environmental benefits of replacing loud, polluting diesel ferries with clean and quiet electrics, Eaglen said the battery-powered boats stack up on purely business terms.

“It’s something that was not possible before because battery technology was not there yet – now it is,” he told Stuff.

Fullers told Stuff it saw a bright future for battery-electric ferries on the Waitematā Harbour.

“I would be keen to see up to 10-12 fully electric ferries doing all the inner harbour work,” said Mike Horne, the chief executive.

EV Maritime has worked closely with Auckland Transport, which has spent several years trying to develop a new strategy for ferries in the city, with possibly a purpose-designed and built fleet.

McMullen and Wing has a long history boat-building on the Tamaki estuary, its sporting creations including Team New Zealand’s 1995 America’s Cup-winning boat, and involvement in the country’s first AC challenge, the 1986-7 “plastic fantastic” KZ7.

Eaglen said a firm which can get an early fleet of electric fast ferries up and proven, could win a dominant role in the global market.

He said the export market might not be about selling Auckland-built ferries, but partnering with overseas agencies and communities selling its designs, expertise and intellectual property.

He hoped the firm would have the initial design completed and costed, ready to be taking orders from early next year.

Who should get Auckland’s clever ideas over the line?

Auckland’s ferries are a key part of the public transport system – but where is the backing to make them electric?

The possibility that a world-renowned Auckland boat builder could become a global pioneer in building high-speed, high-tech commuter ferries is a compelling one.

McMullen and Wing’s pitching of the project to build electric ferries made it to Auckland Council last week, but the response of assembled Auckland decision makers should ring alarm bells.

A few polite detail questions, one of which wasn’t “How can we help?”, and chief executive Mike Eaglen headed back to the Mt Wellington boatyard.

On one level, helping to realise projects like the e-ferry is why the amalgamated Auckland Council was formed 10 years ago.
The amalgamation was about the council being more efficient, fixing Auckland’s problems better and faster, but also getting the most out of its economic potential.

Another group of companies is building a one-off electric ferry for Wellington

The multi-sector “Competitive Auckland” group in 2000 started the serious debate on lifting Auckland’s economy and the marine industry was on not only its hot-list, but every one since.

Firms like McMullen and Wing were already doing it. They built the trio of revolutionary fibre-glass boats for New Zealand’s first America’s Cup campaign in 1986, and Team New Zealand’s winning 1995 America’s Cup boat.

Today, the Auckland council “family” holds many of the cards needed for the city to become the home of the world’s first fleet of carbon-fibre-hulled e-ferries.

Council agency Auckland Transport contracts out all but two of the region’s ferry routes.

The ferry fleet is ageing, and AT spent two years in vain trying to launch a new era of ferry transport – new ferries, new designs – before pulling the plug because it would cost more than it could afford.

Ferry operators can’t buy new ferries without new contracts.

The council economic development agency ATEED is tasked with lifting productivity, and while it can introduce McMullen and Wing to government agencies with money, it has none itself to help with research and development.

Some political championing from Auckland might help unlock funding at the Government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. It has money for just such projects – unless they are boats or planes.

A prime reason for Auckland Council to invest $114 million in facilities to help host sailing’s America’s Cup in 2021, is the economic spin-off. Showcasing the city’s marine export industry is one of them.

As a signatory to the global C40 cities’ commitment to curb global warming, Auckland Council could do with an alternative to its fleet of diesel fume-pumping ferries.

McMullen and Wing wasn’t necessarily looking for money from the council, (though it would no doubt help) and it is making headway so far with private backing.

Finding a way to put several e-ferries onto the harbour by 2021, you’d think would be a task the council could and would want to greatly assist.

But instead of asking, “How can we help?” councillors asked minor technical questions of Eaglen.

Mayor Phil Goff asked how far they could travel and how long it took to re-charge a ferry.

Eaglen sees the market as one with few overseas competitors at the moment – a chance for Auckland and New Zealand firms to move quickly and get a jump globally.

Councillors thanked him for his presentation.

Auckland could have electric ferries in time for 2021 America’s Cup

Fullers360 aims to have one electric ferry commuting from Devonport to Auckland by 2021. Wellington ferry company East by West announced a plan to develop electric ferries in 2018.

Battery powered electric ferries could be carrying passengers across Auckland Harbour in time for the 2021 America’s Cup, following support from a major ferry operator.

Fullers360 supplied funds this week for the research and development of electric technology for Auckland’s ferry fleet.

Co-ordinating with boat builder McMullen and Wing, the project aimed to have at least one electric ferry operating in the harbour within two years.

Fullers360 Chief Executive Officer Mike Horne said the company had a significant interest in eco-friendly initiatives.

“Fullers360 strongly believes in the potential of electric technology for Auckland’s ferry fleet. We’re seeing steady growth in patronage and need an efficient, eco-friendly and sustainable ferry network to match,”

he said.

Boat building company McMullen and Wing constructed the Team New Zealand Black Magic yacht which won the 1995 America’s Cup. The company is now researching the viability of electric ferries.

McMullen and Wing will conduct research into the viability of electric ferries and present findings to Fullers360 in May.

Research will involve assessing the cost, size and battery life of the vessels.

Fullers360 has expressed interest in developing an electric ferry for the Devonport to Downtown Auckland route by 2021 if the research yields positive results.

McMullen and Wing chief executive Michael Eaglan said the America’s Cup was an opportunity to present New Zealand as a world leader in innovative, eco-friendly marine technology.

“New Zealand is already a world leader in maritime exploits, whether it be building super yachts or America’s Cup racing yachts,” he said.

“This is a way of applying that into something positive and focusing on huge challenges like climate change, which is affecting countries all around the world.”

The boat-building company was founded in 1969 and is known for building the Team New Zealand Black Magic yacht, which won the 1995 America’s Cup.

Eaglan said electric ferries presented advantages over the diesel-powered vessels that were currently in use.

“In terms of addressing climate change, electric ferries are a great option because they have zero carbon emissions,” he said.

“Electric ferries are also very quiet both above and below water. The experience will be much nicer for passengers, coastal communities and wildlife in the Hauraki Gulf.”

Eaglan said initial studies found energy costs for running electric ferries were half the cost of using diesel.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said the council-controlled organisation would support any plans to introduce electric ferries in Auckland.

Wellington ferry company East by West announced it would be developing electric ferries in 2018. Its first vessel, expected to be completed in December, will be the first-fully electric commuter boat in the southern hemisphere.

The 2021 America’s Cup will take place in Auckland and is expected to inject between $600 million-$1 billion into the economy.

Boat builder McMullen and Wing preparing business case to build electric ferries for Fullers360’s Auckland services

An artist’s impression of the planned redevelopment of Queens Wharf to accommodate more ferry services.

Auckland boat builder McMullen and Wing says it can build 25 to 30 electric ferries for Auckland’s transport network.

And it’s getting set to present a business case to Fullers360 next month for the first boat it’s proposing to build, an electric ferry to run between Auckland and Devonport.

McMullen and Wing chief executive Michael Eaglen says it’s still a work in progress and he’s unable to divulge the exact costs involved. But he’s confident the company can build the ferries.

“We would like Auckland to be the centrepiece of that.”

He says many of the existing ferries in Auckland are nearing the end of their lives and the likes of Fullers360, which runs many of the services, is aware of that.

Eaglen says McMullen and Wing has no plans to operate ferry services itself.

He says the company has a lot of work to do to establish what size of ferries would be needed, and to make sure its proposal provides the best service and value for money for the operator.

“Fullers has stepped up and has been involved with our research and development proposal and they are now looking at electric ferries for their Devonport to Auckland services. At the moment they haven’t committed to buying a ferry from us, but we’ve still got the rest of this month to finalise our business case.”

McMullen and Wing was started in 1969 and is based in Mount Wellington. Over the years it has built a number of boats ranging from Team New Zealand’s Black Magic yacht which won the 1995 America’s Cup, through to a number of super yachts and charter vessels. It already carries out refit and maintenance work for Fullers360.

“It’s a very significant opportunity for all of the businesses involved if we can we have a globally leading fleet of electric ferries here in our harbour,” Eaglen says.

He says there has been significant growth in Auckland’s ferry services, with commuters from Hobsonville, Beachhaven, Pinehaven, Gulf Harbour and Half Moon Bay regularly using such services.

Fullers360 CEO Mike Horne says the company strongly believes in the potential of developing an electric ferry fleet.

“Auckland’s population is predicted to reach two million by 2029 – and ferry passengers are forecast to grow by a third, to nearly 29 million by 2025. We’re seeing steady growth in patronage and need an efficient, eco-friendly and sustainable ferry network to match. Working with McMullen and Wing and contributing to funding, we’re in the preliminary stages of a research and development proposal to prove the viability of electric ferries, and may look to progress this into a more substantial project.”

He says Fullers360 has a fleet of 20 vessels currently in its fleet, servicing the tourism and commuter ferry network across 18 destinations.

“All current ferries run on diesel as that’s the most appropriate fuel at this stage, but we’re definitely keen to consider alternative technologies – electric or otherwise – when investing in new vessels for Auckland, as we take the health of the Hauraki Gulf seriously,”

Horne says.

“All current ferries run on diesel as that’s the most appropriate fuel at this stage, but we’re definitely keen to consider alternative technologies – electric or otherwise – when investing in new vessels for Auckland, as we take the health of the Hauraki Gulf seriously,” Horne says.

“Fullers360 is still in early planning stages for electric vessels. We need to not only prove the viability of the electric technology but also ensure practicality, such as ability to build appropriate wharf infrastructure. We’re optimistic and look forward to sharing progress and any updates as we’re able.”

In a report released last year entitled: Unifying the Hauraki Gulf: Calculating the Contribution of Ferries, the company outlined its plans to expand its services.

“Use of public transport – including ferries – is up significantly. Ferry use rose 37% from just over 4.5 million at the beginning of 2010 to 6.16 million for the year to March 2018. As the city’s population surges, ferry services play a vital role in reducing road congestion – and getting Auckland moving.”

Auckland Transport (AT) spokesman Mark Hannan says it would support any plans to introduce electric ferries in Auckland, but the proposal is being led by Fullers360.

“We’re talking about a private operator here, but we would support them on it,” Hannan says.

He says AT doesn’t have any plans to buy or own ferries itself.

“But we do want to expand ferry services in Auckland and there’s definitely room for growth there.”

He says the launch of new ferry services from Hobsonville Point is a recent example.

“That has exceeded all expectations.”

AT figures released in March show ferry services totalled 6.2 million passenger boardings for the 12-months to February. An increase of 2.5% on the previous year. Patronage for February 2019 was 0.59 million, an increase of 7.2% on February 2018 and 7.4% below target.

A Fullers360 graphic showing its plans for more ferry services.

All aboard – electric ferries are coming to Auckland Copy

The benefits of e-ferries are hard to argue with: a healthier climate, lower costs, less congestion and noiseless boats. That’s the transport idea that Mount Wellington-based shipyard and boat builder McMullen & Wing is promoting – and it’s winning over many converts.

CEO Michael Eaglen says that in 2019, it’s completely viable to run ferries on batteries, as the amount of energy stored in a battery has developed a lot recently.

“We’re working away pretty hard to develop these electric ferries and have a vision of a small fleet of ferries built in time for Americas Cup and APEC,” Eaglen says. “We want to showcase this technology at a time when New Zealand will have the world stage, as we see it as an opportunity to grow a significant export for our country.”

E-ferries have already taken off in places such as Norway and Sweden, which have debuted a number of large ferries running on battery power. At a Nordic EV Summit last year, the operator, Fjellstrand, announced launching Norway’s first all-electric ferry reduced CO2 by 95 percent and operating costs by 80 percent.


An all electric car ferry on the move in Norway

“The fact the Norwegians have done it and got those boats operating cost effectively and reliably strengthens our confidence and everyone’s confidence that this is going to work,” Eaglen says.


Michael Eaglen

He says McMullen & Wing is building the ferries of its own accord and while Norway is world leading, his company has a design unique to New Zealand. Auckland Transport and the Auckland ferry operators are front of mind for the first fleet, who have expressed interest.

“Once we and our other partners identified that it worked and the number stack up financially – the reduction in operating costs through fuel savings the business makes stack up – then all of a sudden, a lightbulb turned on that the time is now, that we really can do this and it’s going to save money and just be a better offering all round,” Eaglen says.

“We’re developing them initially with Auckland as a test case and making sure they’re well suited for its harbour, but we’re also developing products that are applicable in other harbours.”

McMullen & Wing’s background is in building performance commercial boats and yachts, and it specialises in high strength, lightweight structures (it built the race-winning 1995 America’s Cup boat, Black Magic). Eaglen says because of this experience, e-ferries aren’t a particular challenge, design-wise, but its team is closely observing the boat’s power demand throughout the day and how to efficiently manage recharge time.


Black Magic in action

“We’re finding the boats are developing out really nicely and probably the bigger problem area is going to be around the infrastructure requirement and getting really good recharge capability on the docks and dealing with the many parties – that’s what we see looming as a substantial piece of work.”

Currently, it’s running some feasibility studies with potential customers, while working on the R&D and the product development behind the scenes.

So, what are the perks of e-ferries that the R&D process has uncovered?

The first and most obvious benefit is the fact that they make zero emissions (big win), but Eaglen says e-ferries are also less disruptive to the marine environment, too.

“One of the really beneficial aspects we’ve been uncovering is these ferries are typically catamarans – boats with two hulls – and the hulls themselves have to be wide enough to fit the engines inside. Big engines require the hulls to be reasonably wide, but the electric motors are much, much smaller so the hulls can be more slender,” he says.

“This means they produce a lot less wash – a lot less wake – so impact on other water users is reduced, and erosion on the coastline is also reduced. That’s a really nice benefit.”

The other benefit of electric ferries is that they’re significantly quieter machines.

“Ferries are typically quite noisy, smelly things, just like busses, so the move to electric has huge benefits there in what the public experience and the passenger experiences,” Eaglen says.

“We think that silent boats gliding in and out of the terminal fits quite nicely with the vision the council has for the downtown ferry basin and precinct, which is a much more park-like, public feel.”

All things going to plan, construction on the first boats will be underway by the end of this year, and the plan is to have the first boats in service by the end of 2020.

Simon Wilson’s 6 things to fix in Auckland: A dream of fabulous ferries for Auckland commuters

Auckland Transport, the Government and Ports of Auckland need to wrap their heads around the idea that ferries are deserving of support in the same way as buses and trains. Photo / Brett Phibbs

There are ferries at the bottom of my garden.

I wish I had thought of that, but I didn’t. It was the poet A.R.D. Fairburn, late of Devonport, and he added that “the Takapuna people envy us”. As well they might. To have a frequent ferry service at the bottom of your garden, or street, or suburb, must be one of the greatest blessings for anyone living in a beautiful harbour city.

So why is it denied to so many? Will it always be?

The good answer is: not if Fullers360 has its way. It has plans.

The great answer is: e-ferries.

Just like scooters, only bigger, and in the shape of boats. Electric ferries will disrupt this industry soon, and that should be great news for Aucklanders living all round the coastlines.

Picture it like this. It’s 2025 and you live in Te Atatū, or Browns Bay, or in one of the smart new apartments in Point England. Each morning you roll down to the jetty, not worried about the timetable because there’s a ferry every 15 minutes. A smart little e-ferry, designed and made right here in Auckland.

On the boat you do your emails, Facebook, whatever, or maybe you just look out the window because it’s peaceful on the water and you get an easy feeling. The city of 50-something volcanoes glides past, cliffs of soaring grace, pōhutukawa tumbling off headlands and beaches around every corner and the glittering, glorious Waitematā. Is there a better way to start the day? Or to end it?

The ferry delivers you to the new berths strung along Queens Wharf, where two or three dozen other boats just like yours are coming and going. There are people all around, enjoying the water’s edge, many of them on the new terraced steps on the other side of the wharf – built as a result of public pressure after council agencies stupidly revealed in 2018 that they were not going to allow water access in that area.

Not possible? Been to Brisbane? It’s a city with the same population as Auckland and it has fast, functional ferries that scoot up and down the river all the time.

It’s more than possible. Fullers360 wants to introduce new ferry berths at Millwater, Browns Bay, Takapuna, Wynyard Quarter, Mission Bay, Point England and Panmure. It wants to increase services to many of the 21 existing berths around the Waitematā. The company carries 6 million passengers a year now and by 2025 it plans to raise that to 9 million.

If ferries were fast, reliable and cost efficient everyone would want to use them. Photo / Janna Dixon

Actually, I think they’re being far too conservative. If ferries were fast, friendly, reliable and cost-efficient, who wouldn’t want to use them? Why not an East Coast Bays run that stops at 10 spots on that coast? Another along the beaches of the eastern suburbs and a third that trawls around the suburbs of the upper harbour?

For all that to happen, Auckland Transport, the Government and Ports of Auckland need to wrap their heads around the idea that ferries, for many Aucklanders, are deserving of support in the same way buses, trains and roads for private vehicles are now.

Not a nice to have, but an important strategic component in the growth of Auckland.

We could do more. Push a canal from Green Bay through to the Whau River right by the Avondale Racecourse, linking the Waitematā with the Manukau. Portage Rd in New Lynn, if you were wondering, has that name because it marks the route of a canal first proposed over 100 years ago.

Imagine if the council helped iwi develop a visitor centre at Māngere’s Ōtuataua Stonefields, a site whose history stretches back from 19th century farming to the start of the land wars, to pre-European pa life and all the way back to the Tainui canoe and the earliest landings in Aotearoa.

Imagine how cool it would be to get there by ferry, on an historic tour from downtown, up the Waitematā, through a portage canal and across the Manukau.

Best news of all? The boatbuilder McMullen & Wing want to make four fully electric ferries, right now, at its base on the Tamaki River in Mt Wellington.

Why only four? Because it has to start somewhere, and they can do four in time for Apec in 2021. Chief executive Michael Eaglen has a vision of the Prime Minister welcoming Apec leaders on board at the new terminal, showing off the smart, silent and zero-emissions fleet to the world.

It’s a grand vision, although it won’t happen quite as he dreams because, for security reasons, Apec leaders are not allowed to set foot on a boat.

But that’s a minor detail. E-ferries could happen soon and there’s no reason to stop at four.

“This,” said Eaglen at an event late last year , “is where New Zealand steps up from being merely beautiful to being a leader in green tech in the world.”

Clear the decks and give that man some more room.

“The benefits,” he said, “are less congestion, lower costs, better lives and a better climate.” And more pleasure in your commute, he should have added.

He said there was “a lot to do and no time to waste” and all it required was “partnership and will”.

What does that really mean? “It’s not the technology,” he told me. “We can do that. What we need is co-ordination: having the right wharves and terminals, and the appropriate subsidies.”

The good news is that the redevelopment of Queens Wharf will include capacity for charging electric boats. A vital first step, but there’s much more to do.

“The challenge is getting the big players together,” said Eaglen. “I don’t have any doubt it can happen but there isn’t an existing forum for it.”

Sounds like a job for the mayor to me. E-ferries showcased to the world by 2021, that would be brilliant. But someone has to make it happen.