Maid of the Mist Corp., operators of the venerable Niagara Falls tour boats, will launch the first U.S.-built, all-electric and zero emission passenger vessels later this year.

Modules for two catamarans under construction at Burger Boat Company, Manitowoc, Wis., will be transported during May to the Maid of the Mist drydock and maintenance facility at Niagara Falls, N.Y., for assembly, according to a joint statement Friday from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, other state officials and Maid of the Mist President Christopher M. Glynn.

Designed by Propulsion Data Services, Marblehead, Mass., the vessels will have an integrated power and propulsion package from ABB, including lithium ion battery packs and an onshore charging system, enabling sustainable operation with maximum reliability.

"The new vessels will carry our guests to the base of Niagara Falls, one of the world's largest sources of clean hydroelectric power,” said Glynn. The battery banks will be recharged for seven minutes to 80% capacity after each trip to maximize battery life.

A new generation of all-electric passenger vessels is already established in hydroelectric power-rich Norway, where the pioneering ferry Ampere has been operating since 2015. Like the Ampere, the Maid of the Mist vessels will connect to the onshore power grid, without need for diesel backup.

The Lower Niagara River tours are one of the oldest tourism attractions in North America, dating from the steam power era in 1846. Owned since 1971 by the Glynn family of Niagara Falls, the company carries more than 1.6 million guests annually.

The company’s two vessels, Maid of the Mist VI, built in 1990, and the Maid of the Mist VII, built in 1997, will be retired when the new vessels go into service in September 2019 after certification and trials.

In 2012 Maid of the Mist faced closure in the absence of storage space for its boats on the New York side of the river, before the Cuomo administration made a deal keep the boats running and increase revenues for Niagara Falls State Park.

Maid of the Mist agreed to invest $32 million in the former Schoellkopf Power Station site near the falls to make it suitable for the winter storage and maintenance of its boats. Under the agreement the company agreed to increase its license payments to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, totaling $105 million over 30 years — three times the revenues that were projected for the 30-year period when a contract was initially approved in 2002.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.