A public-private consortium in Washington State is collaborating on a joint innovation project (JIP) to develop a zero-emissions hydrofoil fast ferry
Consortium participants Port of Anacortes, Port of Bellingham, and Port of Skagit are leveraging the design and boatbuilding experience of the state’s maritime clusters to create a replicable business model for a high-speed hydrofoil passenger ferry.
Leading the design development are Washington State naval architectural firms Bieker Boats, Anacortes, and Glosten, Seattle.
Returning to Seattle after his work designing the first hydrofoil vessel for the Americas Cups-winning Team Oracle, Paul Bieker wanted to apply similar innovations to ferries in the region to improve speed, efficiency, and access to the city. A fleet of such vessels would help alleviate some of Seattle’s road congestion issues, while reducing regional greenhouse gas (GHG) and CO2 emissions.
Working with Glosten, Bieker Boats created a preliminary design that would enable Washington State to recreate the ’Mosquito Fleet.’ From the 1850s to 1930s, numerous ferries sailed between ports like a “swarm of mosquitoes” before road and rail transportation began to dominate. With increased congestion from land-based transportation, a new fleet of ferries could alleviate regional transportation issues and take advantage of the advanced design, manufacturing, boatbuilding, and materials capabilities found in the region.
Dubbed the Foil Ferry, the new catamaran vessel would be fast and easy to construct. The vessel would have an overall length of 30.26 m, beam of 6.77 m, with a non-foiling draught of 3.3 m and foiling draught of 1.6 m. With 1,030 kW of installed power, the carbon-fibre-hull vessel will have a cruising speed of 35 knots, with a capacity of 150 passengers and crew.
The intent of the project is to bring to market a zero-emissions high-speed waterborne transportation alternative in Puget Sound. The design includes the options of fully electric propulsion or diesel-electric propulsion for extended range. Owing to its extreme efficiency, the diesel-electric option is two to three times more fuel efficient than conventional fast ferries and has the potential to save 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, while the fully electric version offers even greater improvements, according to the developers.
“Developing the Foil Ferry in collaboration with the Washington Maritime Blue Joint Innovation Project exemplifies the very best of our Pacific Northwest values and capabilities,” said Glosten project manager Matthew Lankowski. “This partnership of ports, designers, builders, and operators is a catalyst that is propelling our design into a reality, to the benefit of our economy, the environment, and the passenger vessel community at large,” added Mr Lankowski.
A potential route for ferry operations has been determined by Kitsap Transit, which is sponsoring the team in applying for additional funding to advance the concept.
This collaborative JIP effort is led by the maritime innovation alliance Washington Maritime Blue and class society DNV GL.
“There are strong maritime industry clusters in each of our districts that could benefit from the design and construction of these vessels in our communities, resulting in a direct economic impact,” said Port of Skagit executive director Patsy Martin.
To speed development, several streams of work will occur either in parallel or in succession, creating efficiencies and avenues to take advantage of the collective strengths of each of the organisations involved. This will include design, an infrastructure assessment, a review of environmental benefits and impacts, regulatory and permitting needs, and determining possible routes and operators.
“An ambitious but needed project like the relaunch of this type of ferry service would be exponentially more difficult if each individual stakeholder acted alone,” said Washington Maritime Blue founder and board chair Joshua Berger. “A cluster organisation like ours can bring together the technologies, required local knowledge, and resources that will ensure this joint innovation project is successful.”
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