GUEST BLOG: Patrick John O’Dea – Meet the bullet trains of the sea


“Don’t ask why, ask why not” John F. Kennedy

On the news that the Government has extended $600 million extra in credit to keep Air New Zealand in the air.
(taking it to a maximum of $1.5 billion.The interest rate on the loan has also been lowered.)

Talk about a missed opportunity.

Can we really afford such short term BAU thinking?.

If we are ever to tackle climate change, converting airliners to greener fuels will be extremely problematic, (less so for surface vessels). So much so, that I doubt it will ever happen, or wind up being so horribly expensive and impractical that we will be burdening future generations of New Zealalanders with a stranded asset.

What if the government instead of making this eyewatering amount of funding available to a sunset industry like air travel, put that money toward a new way of connecting us to the world, one much less damaging to the climate

The Bullet Trains of the sea.

TDB Recommends

Tasmanian built LNG powered Incat vessels can cross the Tasman sea in 24 hours carrying 1,000 passengers, (possibly twice that or more if you packed them in with aircraft style seating arrangements). Plus 150 cars. Get rid of the car deck and you could probably double passenger capacity again.

Do that and the cost per unit could be very low.

Just as high speed trains in Europe and Japan sucessfully compete with the airlines over land, Incat vessels have been built to compete with the airlines across water.

How about it? Would you buy a ticket to cross the Tasman on a high speed ocean going ferry if the cost of a ticket was half or even a quarter the price of an airfare over the same distance, also knowing that you were saving the planet?

There is even a possibility of moving from low emissions LNG to zero emissions Hydrogen fuel.

Such a vessel is already being built right now. (admittedly for the luxury billionaire end of the market, but if rich people have any social use at all, it is by being early adopters and trend setters. Strip away all of the billionaire fripperies and a hydrogen powered drive chain could be fitted into an Incat passenger vessel. But that is for the future, LNG powered Incat passenger vessels are operating now and successfully competing with airlines.)

OK so it takes 24 hours instead of 3 hours to cross the Tasman, but realistically it takes up most if not all your day getting to the airport and preflight boarding and luggage check in. A lot of this could be done in transit on a much roomier ferry. And with roll on roll off you could drive right on board (As an incentive to ditch the ICE I would take EVs at no extra cost to your boarding ticket)

Now that’s what I call addressing climate change by building back better.


Hell yes!


It’s already being done!


Comrade Patrick John O’Dea is a fierce fighter for worker rights.


  1. Keep the vehicle deck it could work. This is sooner than expected but we would have gotten something like this eventually given sufficient population and GDP.

    • Yes it’s a dirty piece of water but as a descendant of people who immigrated from Tasmania in the 19th Century (because NZ was easier to get to than other parts of Aussie) i know it’s an idea that needs to be explored. And if the rich with their carbon fibre playboy racing boats have done anything useful for the rest of us it is to develop ocean going tech. Solar panels to power electric motors??? Accurate weather reporting?? Yes it is doable and an option whose time is well and truly here.

      • Shona
        The dirty stretch of water will get even more unpredictable as the climate warms and storm become more intense. Due of course to the emissions from transport but not solely.
        When immigrants came early in the 19th century the power that moved the ships was the wind.

    • Its being done!! There are fast ferries all over the world. Incat has even built ferries for Cook Strait. The only thing that killed them was the destructive wash in sheltered waters. The difference is in the much greater scale of the new ships.

      • I guess you too wouldn’t approve of a merchant fleet powered by sail either but if we have any ambition of hitting emission targets we will.

        • A sail boat will actually handle big seas better than a similar size power boat. Physics alone determines that maintaining 50 kts in a 6 metre swell with people walking around would be impossible. We need practical solutions to solve the emissions crisis, sadly the world is intent on returning to its old normal.

          • Agreed Peter
            The seen necessity to travel has been promoted within the present culture. In decades past that “need” to travel was very much less and many people stayed within a short distance of where they were born.
            But sail is a very viable proposition for freight and passenger travel. The West coast of the USA is seeing increasing sea transportation by sail as merchants wish to lower their GHG or carbon emissions and a customer base respond well to that.
            The changes within our culture and society will be forced by lowering emissions so planning for that can help reduce the pain.
            Chang is in the wind literally.
            Speed of vessels has a direct relationship to the energy needed to propell them.
            A green solution would be sail assisted when necessary by steam power using greatly improved efficiency of boiler and firebox designs being led by a young Kiwi engineer,

            His steam generation is designed to burn wood, not coal or oil. We can do wood.
            A well designed steam engine lasts for at least half a million hours of work with any rebuilding necessary being well within the capability of NZ Engineers,
            Old fashioned in the minds of some but much less demanding on the planets shrinking non renewable resources than more modern styled transport.
            Wooden hulls also may be revisted with treated timbers replacing our long gone Kauri.

  2. ‘There is even a possibility of moving from low emissions LNG to zero emissions Hydrogen fuel.’

    Despite all the irrefutable evidence that there will NEVER be a hydrogen economy because there are no sources of hydrogen on earth and that all the hydrogen ever used is made by partial oxidation of natural or using electricity generated using natural gas, both methods incurring substantial energy loss) the delusions and misinformation continue.

    It’s like fighting a Hydra: each time a tentacle is cut off another appears in it’s place.

    That why there is absolutely no hope for this society. Ignorance and stupidity reign supreme and cannot be eradicated.

    Oh well, the delusions about maintaining some semblance of current economic arrangements will continue until the whole system fall over in during the next 5 years.

    • Hydrogen is not a fuel source for harvesting energy. It takes more energy to extract the hydrogen that what is available by burning that hydrogen,

      Hydrogen fuel is just another of the myths flown to distract from the inevitable course of drastically reducing our energy consumption.
      Not convenient, but as unavoidable as climate change forced by using fossil fuels for energy.
      Atmospheric CO2 now over 420ppm. Will it rise. Most certainly with BAU.
      We have developed an energy hungry path to a future of certain collapse of our fickle but temporary lifestyle

  3. Simply because their aim is not to fix the problem, but to keep BAU going and to JUST look like they’re trying to fix the problem.
    Same all around the western world.
    All opportunities since 1997 crash have been wasted ON PURPOSE…….too much money being made by the uber elites via BAU, to change anything, UNTIL there is no option, by which time ‘they’ hope to have a (fairy tale) solution or be dead and so not have the problems today or tomorrow to deal with.

  4. “Don’t ask why, ask why not”

    Yeah, well there are dozens of reasons why we should NOT be indulging in aircraft-facilitated tourism, and almost as many reasons why we shouldn’t be indulging in ‘bullet trains of the sea’, not least being:

    1. overheating the Earth via emissions from fossil fuels
    2. the peaking of liquid fuels extraction and the imminent prospect of rapid terminal decline in availability
    3. maintenance of the delusion people have the right to use energy at 100 times the permissible [if we are to maintain an habitable planet] rate
    4. rapid transmission of pests and diseases
    5. annihilation of any sea life that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially endangered species like turtles and dolphins
    5. the Ponzi nature of the financial system and its imminent collapse……

    • @Afewknowthetruth

      You make good points why we shouldn’t be burning fossil fuels at all, and I agree with all of them.

      Still investing in burning less fossil fuels by encouraging surface transportation boats trains etc instead of investing hundreds of $millions to prop up the failing air lines to enable them to burn greater amounts couldn’t be a bad thing.

      Admittedly the difference may only be crashing into the wall at 80Kph than 100Kph

      There may be other benefits.

      As the Pacific Islands go under and tropical hurricanes become more intense we may owe it to our Island and other Pacific neighbours to have a fleet of surface vessels able to carry out mass evacuations or give aid.

      The Prime Minister has said that climate change is the nuclear free moment of her generation.

      The Lange government banned vessels carrying nuclear weapons.

      The Ardern government is investing hundreds of millions to increase CO2 emissions.

      This is the difference between rhetoric and true intentions.

      David Lange didn’t say he would ban nuclear ships and them invite more of them.

      • Pat the sour pill of changing how we live is not accepted by most adults in practice.
        In the off chance a leader with a solid backing invokes a first big step in change for the better, giving a signal of direction to wind down our fossil fuel consumption, then a public education program has to be daily and overriding the push back by capitalist neocons who can only think of growth, increased consumption and stock marker share prices,
        Muldoon invokes a think big program and that has been heavily condemned bit we need to think big in terms of replacing existing ways of increasing localised food, employment pattern, transportation with a complete rethink and transition plan as well as challenging the wasteful opulence of large dwellings filled with stuff, most of which ends up in landfills eventually.
        Muldoon also put a brake on house price rises and laid out a recommendation for food prices. And he was a Tory.
        Being bold early in a govt term tends to carry through but public education cannot be left to MSM controlled by factional interests.

    • As I said above, measures like this may only be the difference between hitting the wall at 80Kph instead of $100Kph

      The $1.5 billion low interest credit line extended to Air New Zealand comes on top of over $60 million in direct subsidies. Supporting Air New Zealand with massvie investment, following a sweetheart deal for even cheaper electricity for Comalco to keep them polluting, plus allowing Bathurst coal mining to expand onto crown land at Huntly, despite the rhetoric their actual policy decisions show the true intent of the Ardern administration is to slam us against the wall as hard as possible.

      Just a personal question; Afewknowthetruth, Do you still fly? Or have you sworn off it?

      If you have sworn off flying, why?

      Especially as you claim nothing we can do will make a difference?

      • Pat some good points but reducing travel and transportation is a matter of reorgainsation and prioritisation and certainly not market led.
        If we were to reduce our imports by 95% then make a list of 5 non food items would take priority.

  5. Doubt if that, will cross the Tasman in winter while going fast and saving fuel.
    Have to slow down for all the sea sick passengers, for one.

    • Faster than the weather

      The typical storm front moves at most 40KpH. Normal large ocean going cargo ships and older style of passenger liners, though they can steam at 25 knots (45 Kph) cannot outrun or avoid storm fronts mainly because they are so long and too big to get around. These vessels simply have to plough on through.

      Incat vessels have the speed to outrun most if not all storms. Guaranteeing smooth crossings most of the time. The large Incat vessel Francisco cruises at 58 knots (107Kph) No storm front has ever moved at anywhere near this speed.
      Real time weather monitoring satellites tied to weather prediction algorithms using the vast expanse of the open ocean can chart a course for a speedy Incat vessel to avoid or outrun most if not all storm fronts.

      • Pat have you looked at the energy consumption of the cats and the emission in a whole of life carbon foot print. Both are fundamental considerations.

    • Agreed Pat but why should Greta travel when the message can travel with a much smaller carbon footprint.
      Perhaps it is connected with a factor also mentioned in the link you gave about the damage air travel causes. The factor is people feeling the support of being with others or a member of the crowd. An emotional response heavily relied on in much that we read that steers our beliefs. A thinking response is needed that is hard for some.

      • I never said that Greta Thunberg should travel to New Zealand, I said she could, (that is if she wanted to) But mainly I was thinking of the young people of her generation in this country and other countries that want to see the world and would rather do it in a more eco-friendly way.

        • The myth of traveling to see the world is so destructive.
          While we have our screens an amazing amount of things can be seen without travel.
          The whole world wide web is not eco-friendly either with the natural resources being consumed, the e waste produced and energy it takes to drive the web, has a limited future also.
          We live on a finite planet.

  6. What’s wrong with nuclear powered ships? For example, I hear cold fusion is becoming a bit of a thing? The best bit about cold fusion, so I read, is that it can be immediately switched off without the annoyance of core meltdowns, explosions, death, and pollutions likely to give rise to 200 ton nine armed octopuses brawling with 400 ton gorillas and 800 ton lizards as they all swing off erupting volcanos.
    I heard an excellent story about cold fusion. About 25 years ago there was a great hubbub about this mythical cold fusion thing ga ma jig. There was a lab in the USA who claimed to have cracked it. Then, the ‘merican gubbimint of the day sent in a team of ‘experts’ to ‘investigate’ the labs claims and, surprise-surprise, found that the lab was full of shit and just wanted to keep hanging from the public funding titty, it was alleged. ( Not to mention being a threat to the gargantuan lizard of a petrochemical industry.)
    Well, some years after that, I heard a fellow talking on our very own National Radio about just that very same event. Turns out he was the scientist who headed up the Fed Govt ‘investigation’ into the labs assertions and was so impressed by what he found he quit his Fed job and joined the Lab he was investigating then they all went to a French linear accelerator / lab combo to carry on and all funded by Toyota. Imagine a Renault built by Toyota and powered by cold fusion? That’s madder than huge brawling mutant wild life on top of an erupting volcano.
    Cold fusion. That’s the way of the future son. That’s if it actually exists of course.
    BTW? Just a wee thing… Shouldn’t we be giving thanks to each other for being here? In AO/NZ? How lucky are we? We bicker and argue and all that but fuck are we lucky or what? We should pause and reflect on that I think. We need to look over at our neighbours and say ” Jesus! Are we lucky or what? ” By expressing how lucky we are to each lucky other should put us on high alert. To be ever vigilant. Because there will be very dangerous eyes upon us. We shouldn’t forget that.

    • Cold fusion has been worked on for over 40 years. The overhead of plant is enormous and resources needed to create a system where energy out exceeds energy in on a commercial scale does not seem to be likely ever.

      Many years ago NZ looked at nuclear for power stations and to drive ships. Both were ruled out as impractical and much too expensive to build and run, and that was without taking into account what to do with the highly radioactive waste
      Nuclear is presently a very expensive proposition if not the most expensive when waste is taken into account.

      Simple solution for a while anyway is to use less energy until we adapt to a low energy society.

      • I think he was being ironic.

        But who knows? Maybe he actually believes this stuff. Cold fusion, hot fusion, as the old joke goes….
        ‘The energy of the future and always will be’

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