Alabama ferry conversion is an all-electric first

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Gee's Bend Ferry

After conversion at the Master Marine shipyard in Bayou la Batre, Ala., the historic Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) Gee’s Bend ferry returned to service in April as America’s first zero-emission, electric-powered passenger/car ferry.

Operated by HMS Ferries on behalf of ALDOT, the 15-vehicle/132-passenger ferry runs on the Alabama River between Camden and Boykin, Ala.

The conversion was funded with the support of a $1.09 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with $765,350 matching dollars from ALDOT. It will result in lower emissions, less noise and reduced operating costs.

Seattle, Wash., naval architecture and marine engineering firm Glosten provided concept through contract design and shipyard technical support for the project, which was managed by HMS Ferries and HMS Consulting.

“This was a significant project in the marine industry,” commented Glosten marine engineer Jeff Rider, PE. “The Gee’s Bend Ferry demonstrates how battery technology can be implemented as a means of propulsion, paving the way for further adoption of this technology.”

Marine Interface, Inc. of East Northport, N.Y. integrated the new electric propulsion system with support from American Traction Systems, Fort Myers, Fla.,  (power conversion) and Spear Power Systems, Grandview, Mo. (batteries). Cochran Marine, Seattle, Wash., was responsible for shipboard and shore side charging stations.

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