The ‘greening’ of Washington State Ferries (WSF) fleet has begun with the launch of its hybrid newbuilding programme at Vigor shipyard
Dignitaries from the state of Washington joined Governor Jay Inslee, Washington State Ferries officials and Vigor employees at Vigor’s Seattle shipyard to celebrate the greening of WSF’s fleet. Speakers included Governor Inslee, Secretary of Transportation for Washington State Department of Transportation Roger Millar, and Vigor chief executive Frank Foti. The ceremony concluded with a dedication of the sign marking the construction site of the programme.
Earlier in the year Washington’s legislature authorised a contract extension for Vigor to build up to five 144-car Olympic-class, hybrid-electric ferries over the coming years for WSF, the largest ferry system in the US.
Vigor said in a statement that greening its fleet has been a major objective for WSF and is an important part of Washington’s overarching goal under Governor Inslee’s leadership to accelerate the state’s move to a clean energy future.
Vigor has built the last 12 ferries in the WSF fleet and has been actively engaged in the evolution of hybrid-electric solutions. In addition to other research, in June 2018 Vigor team members joined a delegation of maritime leaders on a Washington Maritime Blue visit to Norway to confer with experts on best practices and available technologies for low carbon ferry systems. Vigor and WSF will again visit Norway as part of a second Washington Maritime Blue delegation in September 2019.
“Vigor has always deeply valued the opportunity to partner with Washington State Ferries in fabrication and repair,” said Mr Foti. “Now having the opportunity to build vessels that greatly reduce carbon emissions is a great honour – both in terms of the positive impact on the environment and for the hundreds of family wage jobs created by this work. We appreciate Governor Inslee’s leadership in this area and also the hard work the legislature undertook to make this happen.”
The Olympic-class hull form, which will be used on the hybrid vessels, is one of the most efficient in the fleet with less drag through the water and a small wake for a positive environmental impact. The new vessels will be capable of 100% electric operation on most routes once the infrastructure needed for charging is installed. Over the life of the vessels, a 94% reduction in carbon emissions is anticipated along with the added benefit of significantly reduced operating costs for the ferry system.
The design and engineering phase to convert the existing Olympic-class design to hybrid-electric is currently underway. Vigor expects to begin construction in late 2020, and to deliver the first ferry in late 2022. Washington State Ferries’ long range plan calls for all five ferries to be delivered by 2028, replacing ageing vessels in the fleet.