The first, fully-electric road ferries for North America are now on their way from Damen Shipyards Galati to Lake Ontario, Canada, to begin operations.

Ordered by the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario, Canada, the 68-meter (223') Amherst Islander II and 98-meter (321') Wolfe Islander IV, represent a new generation of zero-emission large ferries, Damen said. The vessels departed the shipyard on Aug. 26 to be loaded on the semisubmersible transport vessel Super Servant 4 and was scheduled to arrive in Lake Ontario in 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° C.

The 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 Damen working with the Ontario government to install the facilities that will enable the vessels to use shore power supplied via integrated shore 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 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 6-MW of power, charging takes just 10 minutes.

With the shoreside works due for completion in 2022, following extensive training of crews, the ferries will begin 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,” Leo Postma, Damen area director sales Americas, said in a statement announcing the deliveries. “Damen now offers turnkey packages for organizations looking for integrated all-electric ferry systems, working with local contractors and suppliers to install the shoreside infrastructure that best suits local requirements and conditions.”

Damen is providing full support with staff in Ontario for the 16-month warranty period and is also establishing a service hub in British Columbia to provide long term support to the Canadian market. Damen is currently midway through a program to build and deliver six Damen Road Ferries 8117 E3 for BC Ferries. While presently fitted with hybrid propulsion systems, the new boats 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.


Large Featured Spot