Electric ferry in New Zealand

Low Emission & Electric Ferry Project

Research Project selected for DOT funding

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Southeast Conference and Alaska DOT&PF partner on research project.

(JUNEAU, Alaska) May, 2022 — Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and Southeast Conference (SEC) are partnering to conduct a Low Emission Ferry Research project.

Alternative fuel powered, low emission, and electric ferries could be a game-changer for Alaska’s Marine Highway System, as DOT&PF starts to replace AMHS’s aging fleet in upcoming years. Fuel efficient ferries could increase the range and capacity of the fleet, potentially increasing service to communities and reducing AMHS operating costs.

“Southeast Conference was formed in 1958 to work with the State of Alaska toward the formation of the Alaska Marine Highway System,” said SEC executive director, Robert Venables. “The success of AMHS is still our passion and priority, and we are excited to continue our partnership with the State to pursue implementation of both the Reshaping Committee recommendations and the opportunities that have emerged in the new federal funding programs. This pilot program is well-timed given Alaska’s need to plan for new vessels to replace the Alaska Marine Highway’s aging fleet!”

Southeast Conference will support the project, which will include a detailed examination of the costs, benefits, and overall technical and financial feasibility of low-emission ferry operations within the AMHS service area. Funding for the research comes from a new program through US Department of Transportation to provide grants for the purchase of electric or low-emitting ferries and for the electrification of existing ferries to reduce emissions.

“Revitalizing the Alaska Marine Highway System is so important to us,” said DOT&PF Commissioner Ryan Anderson. “Pushing forward to see if alternative fuels, low emissions, or electric ferries, could make our vessels more efficient, could potentially allow us to add service to our coastal communities.”

AMHS operates over more marine miles than any other ferry system in the United States, serves 35 communities, with 10 ferries over 3,500 marine miles. It is well positioned to sponsor the evaluation of alternative fuel, low emission propulsion systems in a variety of conditions.

DOT&PF and SEC signed an MOU on March 2022 agreeing to the management of duties for both organizations in this joint project. The State of Alaska agreed to contract with Southeast Conference to support this low-emission, electric ferry service analysis with regional facilitation, and provide technical assistance, data sharing, and plan designs as requested.

Ed. note:

  • Photo #1 (above) is from this 3/2022 article about an electric ferry in New Zealand:  https://www.marinelog.com/passenger/ferries/fully-electric-ferry-completes-inaugural-round-trip/
  • Photo #2 (below) is from a commercial boat building press release about a hydrogen fuel cell ferry in the San Francisco Bay area:  https://www.allamericanmarine.com/hydrogen-vessel-launch/
  • Photo #3 (below) is from a San Francisco ferry service press release in late 2021/early 2022:  https://weta.sanfranciscobayferry.com/current-projects/zero-emissions