Green Shipping Pact: Washington State Ferries & Vigor

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by KnowESG
KnowESG_Green Shipping Pact: Washington State Ferries & Vigor
Image courtesy of Washington State Ferries

Washington State Ferries Achieves Landmark in Journey Towards Zero Emissions by 2050: Vigor Awarded First Shipyard Contract for Hybrid-Electric Conversion of Jumbo Mark II-Class Ferries.

In an extraordinary stride towards its ambitious goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050, Washington State Ferries (WSF) is proudly announcing a momentous achievement: the awarding of its inaugural shipyard contract to Vigor. This groundbreaking contract entails the conversion of up to three Jumbo Mark II-class ferries into hybrid-electric powerhouses.

In this transformative endeavour, Vigor, while transitioning WSF's largest ferries into the realm of hybrid-electric propulsion, will concurrently undertake a rejuvenation of ageing propulsion system controls, effectively elongating the operational lifespan of these vessels.

After a rigorous selection process among prominent Washington shipbuilders, Vigor emerged victorious with a winning bid amounting to just over $150 million, overtaking the second bid at approximately $166 million. Notably, the state's initial estimation stood at around $120 million. This comprehensive contract entails the conversion of two vessels at an approximate cost of $100 million, coupled with a firm commitment to convert the third vessel in 2025.

WSF boasts the distinction of being the largest ferry system in the United States, albeit a notable contributor to greenhouse gas emissions within the purview of Washington state agencies.

Burning a staggering 19 million gallons of diesel fuel to facilitate the transport of tens of millions of passengers annually, this paradigm shift towards hybrid-electric ferries comes in direct alignment with the directives of Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Legislature. It seamlessly dovetails with WSF's strategic Long Range Plan, as outlined in the official document (PDF 11.4MB).

Matt von Ruden, System Electrification Programme Administrator, expressed his enthusiasm for the monumental contract, stating, "This contract signifies a monumental stride towards bequeathing our ferry-served communities with enhanced air quality and more ecologically sound service.

"Our initial focus targets the largest emitters in our fleet, the Jumbo Mark IIs, which contribute a notable 26% of our ferries' greenhouse gas emissions. With the electrification of our terminals projected for 2026, we envisage a remarkable decline of approximately 95% in emissions from these three vessels."

Beyond the transformative hybrid-electric conversion, the contract encompasses a meticulously planned overhaul of the propulsion control systems. The trio of vessels has been grappling with equipment malfunctions, often aggravated by the unavailability of replacement components. This comprehensive effort is poised to bolster reliability and ensure the Jumbo Mark IIs remain steadfastly operational for generations to come.

In the upcoming month of September, Vigor will embark on the restoration of the Wenatchee, commencing work at its Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle. Anticipated to resume service along the Seattle/Bainbridge route in the ensuing summer, this milestone will pave the way for the conversion of the Tacoma in 2024. Furthermore, WSF retains the option to extend the contract and encompass the conversion of Puyallup in 2025.

Adam Beck, Vigor's Executive Vice President of Ship Repair, emphasised the longstanding partnership with Washington State Ferries, remarking, "Vigor, alongside its adept workforce, takes immense pride in fostering a steadfast alliance with Washington State Ferries. Our extensive history with WSF positions Vigor as the ideal catalyst to propel our ferry system into an era of low-emission sustainability, nurturing family-wage employment opportunities throughout the expanse of Puget Sound. Eagerly, we anticipate commencing work and reinstating these ferries into active service, catering to the myriad Puget Sound residents who depend on them."

WSF's Pioneering Role in Maritime Transformation

The conversion of the state's largest ferries to hybrid-electric propulsion represents WSF's inaugural stride towards the comprehensive electrification of the ferry system. This pioneering initiative engenders a momentous reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, heralding Washington's proactive stance in the face of a changing climate. The programme's multifaceted agenda encompasses:

  • The retrofitting of six existing diesel ferries into hybrid-electric marvels.

  • The construction of 16 new hybrid vessels, poised to redefine maritime norms.

  • The retirement of 13 diesel ferries, emblematic of the transition towards an eco-conscious future.

  • The integration of charging infrastructure across 16 terminals, propelling the electrification agenda forward.

While WSF spearheads electrification efforts as a frontrunner among ferry systems within the United States, counterparts across northern Europe have already embraced the hybrid-electric revolution, converting over 70 ferries since 2015.

Realising Investments in Action

This landmark conversion contract stands as a centrepiece within WSF's ambitious $3.98 billion electrification initiative. Over the forthcoming 17 years, an allocation of $3.7 billion is slated for the electrification or construction of new ferries, alongside an investment of $280 million dedicated to terminals.

In its present trajectory, WSF has secured funding to the tune of $1.34 billion, of which $1.03 billion originates from the 2022 Move Ahead Washington transportation package. These state-endorsed funds dovetail harmoniously with over $40 million procured through competitive grants, thus unequivocally underscoring a resolute commitment at both state and federal levels to combat climate change through the attenuation of transportation system emissions.

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Source: Washington State Ferries


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