The first, fully electric road ferries to sail in North America are on their way from Damen Shipyards Galati to Kingston on Lake Ontario, Canada, to begin operations. Ordered by the Ministry of Transportation, Amherst Islander II and Wolfe Islander IV, 68 and 98 metres in length respectively, represent a new generation of large zero-emission ferries. The vessels departed the yard on August 26 to be loaded on the semi-submersible transport vessel Super Servant 4 to arrive in Ontario by mid-September. Both of the open-deck vessels are equipped to be fully electric, but also have twin diesel generators installed to allow hybrid and full diesel propulsion for maximum redundancy. Due to the harsh winters the ferries also feature 1B Ice class hulls and 1A Ice class azimuth thrusters, allowing them to be fully operational down to -25 degrees centigrade.

Delivery of the vessels marks the completion of the first of the two stages of the project. The second stage, which is well underway, involves an ambitious programme in which Damen is working with the Ontario government to install facilities that will enable the vessels to use shore power supplied via integrated charging and mooring systems. This will enable them to recharge their batteries while loading and unloading between the short crossings to and from the islands. This involves not only the installation of the necessary transmission infrastructure at each of the four ferry docks, but also the complete rebuild of the docks to accommodate the new vessels plus the onshore electrical equipment. The systems will also utilize load displacement and peak-shaving technology to achieve maximum efficiency and minimal costs. The vessels themselves will use an innovative, fully automatic charging system developed by Wabtec Stemmann with features that include motion compensation to ensure a stable connection between the ship and the shore even in rough seas. Delivering 6MW of power, charging takes just ten minutes. With the shoreside works due for completion in 2022, the ferries will commence operations in hybrid mode using the diesel generators to supply electricity to the motors. “This integrated project is the first of its kind and one that we hope will demonstrate that fully-electric ferries of this size are a viable proposition,” says Leo Postma, Damen Area Director Sales Americas.

Damen is currently midway through a programme to build and deliver six Damen Road Ferries 8117 E3 for BC Ferries. While presently fitted with hybrid propulsion systems, they are designed to be adapted for full electric propulsion in the future.

Ontario’s new ferries bring extra capacity and will make crossings faster as well as greener for the one million passengers and 500,000 vehicles which travel annually between Wolfe Island and Kingston, and the 270,000 passengers and 130,000 vehicles which travel to and from Amherst Island each year.