Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef will enjoy the silence on the reef with zero-emission scenic flights and a hybrid-electric catamaran under development for the Cairns Reef Fleet.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen said the region’s operators were keen to eliminate their carbon footprint as much as possible with businesses actively seeking renewable energy sources for transport.
“With two World Heritage areas side by side, Tropical North Queensland has long been a leader in environmental initiatives and is the most Eco-certified destination in Australia with 62 companies and 182 experiences accredited through the scheme,” he said.
“Transportation is the greatest challenge in reducing emissions so our operators are partnering with leaders in this field to develop more efficient ways of showcasing the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest rainforest.”
Cairns Premier Great Barrier Reef and Island Tours has received a $200,000 grant from the Queensland Government’s Tourism Experience Development Fund to work with marine engine manufacturer Volvo Penta to build a 24m electric hybrid catamaran for 60 passengers.
Owners, husband and wife team Perry Jones and Taryn Agius, have been operating dive and snorkelling tours for almost three decades on their vessels Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom with sustainability as a priority.
“Our next generation vessel will be an eco-catamaran with solar panels and an electric-hybrid engine so guests can enjoy silence while they are on the Great Barrier Reef,” Ms Agius said.
“It has been an ongoing journey investigating cleaner energy solutions and this electric-hybrid catamaran will be our first step towards becoming emission free when we launch in mid-2024.”
Northern Australia’s largest helicopter operator, Nautilus Aviation, has ordered 10 zero-emission electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for scenic flights over the Great Barrier Reef by 2026.
A division of the Morris Group, Nautilus has partnered with Eve Air Mobility, part of the Embraer Group, to introduce the fleet as part of the Morris Group’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2030 across all of its businesses.
Nautilus Aviation CEO Aaron Finn said the company had held Advanced Ecotourism Certification for 10 years, recently being awarded Green Travel Leader status, and was looking forward to eliminating their use of fuel to power scenic flights.
“This will allow us to provide emission-free, quiet tours over the Great Barrier Reef, providing an unmatched eco experience for our customers,” he said.
CaPTA introduced Queensland’s first commercial electric bus in October 2019 for its Tropic Wings Day Tours between Cairns and Kuranda and to shuttle guests between the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and Rainforestation Nature Park.
The family-owned business installed a charging station and solar panels at their Tropic Wings Coach Depot, reducing their carbon emissions by up to 30 tonnes each year.
Sapphire Transfers took delivery of its first electric vehicle in November which Director Matt Grooby said made good business sense as it decreased fuel costs of the average 300km round trip from $60 to $10 while the reduced maintenance requirements meant he would save many thousands of dollars a year.
Electric vehicle charging stations are available at major attractions throughout Tropical North Queensland including Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, Paronella Park, Wildlife Habitat and Mossman Gorge Centre.
Visitors wanting to reduce emissions on a self-drive holiday can choose an electric 2022 ruby red Tesla Model 3 from Cairns Luxury Car Hire or hire a hybrid vehicle from Avis.