ABB to supply propulsion system for Gulf of Maine hybrid ferry

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Following a vote by its board of directorsCasco Bay Island Transit District (Casco Bay Lines), which serves an area of the Gulf of Maine in the USA, will soon begin construction of a new ferry to service Peaks Island.

The ferry will be powered by a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system, making Casco Bay Lines one of the first public passenger ferry systems in the USA to fully utilize such technology, and eliminating up to 800 tons of CO2  emissions annually.

Since identifying the need to replace the Machigonne II, the passenger and vehicle ferry currently servicing Peaks Island, the transit authority secured US$16.3m in funding and conducted a three-year design process, with naval architecture and marine engineering firm Elliott Bay Design Group designing the vessel in collaboration with Casco Bay Lines. The vessel will use a propulsion system provided by ABB; it will charge while docked in Portland and operate in battery-powered mode whenever possible.

“This new vessel will transport vehicles, freight and hundreds of thousands of passengers between the mainland and Peaks Island every year for the next 30 years,” said Hank Berg, general manager of Casco Bay Lines.

“We are incredibly excited to be updating our aging fleet with something designed and equipped to meet current and future needs of the district. Our customers increasingly view the sustainability of our operations and the stewardship of Casco Bay as important components of our service, in addition to reliability, safety and comfort. The hybrid-electric propulsion system will significantly reduce carbon emissions over the life of the vessel and provide a clear environmental benefit for our region.”

Casco Bay Lines was awarded nearly US$4m in 2020 for the propulsion system, including US$3.2m in competitive grant funding to procure the technology through the FTA’s (Federal Transit Administration) Passenger Ferry Grant program, and US$750,000 through the Maritime Administration (MARAD) Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program to go toward various components of the project. It will work with MARAD to assess efficiency data and do additional testing and reporting on the hybrid engine and battery charging systems for use by others in the maritime industry.

“Momentum for lower carbon footprint ferry operations continues to grow worldwide,” added Bruce Strupp, senior account manager, new build, ABB Marine & Ports. “ABB is honored that its integrated electric, digital and connected solutions are being considered integral as more and more US operators replace obsolete vessels to match regulatory and societal demands.”

Casco Bay Lines hopes to have the new vessel in operation by the end of 2022.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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