All American Marine (AAM), Bellingham, Wash., has been awarded a contract by Switch Maritime (SW/TCH) to complete the construction and outfitting of an aluminum 70', 84-passenger zero-emissions, hydrogen-powered, electric drive e-ferry. The ferry (referred to as the ‘Water-Go-Round’ project) will operate in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Prior to its transfer to AAM, the project was at the Bay Ship & Yacht Co. shipyard in Alameda, Calif., where the aluminum hull and superstructure had been started. The new boat will be the first hydrogen fuel cell vessel in the U.S., representing a monumental step in the maritime industry’s transition to a sustainable future.

The e-ferry is being developed to demonstrate a pathway to commercialization for zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell marine technologies. It will exhibit the viability of this marine technology for the commercial and regulatory community.

AAM is already a builder of hybrid-electric vessels in the U.S. and was chosen to complete this project because of its experience building unique vessels. All American’s new shipyard has an expanded capacity and production capabilities for additional, larger and more complex vessels.

SW/TCH’s San Francisco e-ferry will act as the flagship vessel for its fleet, an important first step in a concerted effort to curb transportation emissions while mitigating roadway congestion in the largest urban centers across the country.

SW/TCH is partnering with Clean Marine Energy (CME) to develop electric charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure onshore. CME plans to make clean fueling infrastructure available in multiple U.S. ports.

The e-ferry project is using private funding from SW/TCH and a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The project leverages technology from partners including Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine, BAE Systems and Hydrogenics. SW/TCH’s mission-driven platform seeks to work with existing U.S. ferry operators to provide capital to accelerate their transition to zero emissions, leveraging significant experience from the build of this e-ferry.

Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine is the provider of the hydrogen fuel cell power package and also serves as technical and regulatory consultants on the project. The vessel will use an onboard set of fuel cells arranged in compact stacks, similar to battery racks, which allows the onboard space to be used efficiently. The fuel cells turn hydrogen into electricity by injecting hydrogen on one side and by supplying compressed ambient air on the other side of a proton exchange membrane (PEM fuel cell). The hydrogen fuel storage is connected to the fuel cell powertrain, creating electricity to run the propulsion motors and turning the twin fixed-pitch propellers.

“Having demonstrated our capabilities by delivering a number of state-of-the-art vessels over the years, AAM was the ideal candidate to complete this vessel. We believe that hydrogen fuel cell technology will prove to be a robust alternative to conventional powertrain technologies,” said Matt Mullett, AAM president and CEO. “AAM is on the leading edge of manufacturing unique vessels with advanced propulsion methods, which is why we are so excited to be a part of this project to complete construction on such a revolutionary vessel.”

AAM continues to operate during the coronavirus pandemic, stepping up its commitment to worker safety. "There is plenty of communication with our crew," Mullett said, "that we are working hard to maintain a safe work environment, assuring them that we will do everything in our power to keep the doors open, not to let fear kick-in and worry about the worst case scenarios and that we’ll be here for them.”