AAM launches America’s first hydrogen fuel cell ferry

Written by Nick Blenkey
Zero-emission vessel is launched

Launch of hydrogen fuel cell ferry marks a milestone on path to zero-emission vessels

All American Marine Inc. (AAM), Bellingham, Wash., and vessel owner SWITCH Maritime report that the 70-foot, 75-passenger hydrogen fuel cell powered ferry Sea Change has been launched and has started operational trials. The vessel will operate in California’s Bay Area and has been developed and constructed to demonstrate a pathway to commercialization for zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell marine technologies. Its launch marks both a U.S. and a world first.

While still working on permitting of hydrogen fuel systems for maritime vessels with the U.S. Coast Guard, the completed ferry will exhibit the viability of this zero-carbon ship propulsion technology for the commercial and regulatory communities.

The project is funded by private capital from SWITCH, an impact investment platform that is building the first fleet of exclusively zero-carbon maritime vessels to accelerate the decarbonization and energy transition of the U.S. maritime sector.

SWITCH acquired the vessel, then named WaterGoRound from project initiator Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine (GGZEM), now named Zero Emissions Industries, in June 2019.

“By working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, with innovative technology partners, and with best-in-class shipyards such as All American Marine, we can make the transition to decarbonized shipping a reality today,” said Pace Ralli, co-founder and CEO of SWITCH. “We don’t have to wait.”

Hydrogen fuel cell ferry on truck
Sea Change is trucked out of AAM’s building facility

AAM and SWITCH thanked the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Center (MSC), USCG Office of Design and Engineering Standards (CG-ENG), USCG Sector Seattle and USCG Sector San Francisco for their support in the permitting and development of sustainable maritime technologies.

SWITCH seeks to work with existing ferry owners and operators around the country to help facilitate their adoption of zero-carbon vessels to replace aging diesel-powered vessels, leveraging significant experience from the technologies used in the build of this first ferry.

AAM is a leading U.S, builder of hybrid-electric vessels was chosen to complete this project because of its experience building unique, high-quality vessels. Its new state-of-the-art shipyard has an expanded capacity and production capabilities for additional, larger and more complex vessels.

“Hydrogen-fuel cell technology will prove to be a robust alternative to conventional powertrain technologies,” said Ron Wille, AAM President & COO. “AAM is continuing our tradition of building vessels on the leading edge of technology using advanced propulsion methods, which is why we are so proud to have to completed construction on such a revolutionary vessel.”


The vessel is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell power package provided by Zero Emissions Industries, comprised of 360 kW of Cummins fuel cells and Hexagon hydrogen storage tanks with a capacity of 246 kg. This system is integrated with 100 kWh of lithium-ion battery provided by XALT and a 2 x 300 kW electric propulsion system provided by BAE Systems. The hydrogen fuel cell powertrain system delivers the same operational flexibility as diesel with zero emissions and less maintenance. The vessel design originates from Incat Crowther, and the construction supervision and management is led by Hornblower Group.

The project has received important municipal support including a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), administered by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), that comes from California Climate Investments, a California statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health and the environment. Additionally, the project received the first ever loan guarantee under BAAQMD’s Climate Tech Finance program, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gases by accelerating emerging climate technologies.

In partnership with the California Infrastructure Economic Development Bank and the Northern California Financial Development Corporation (NorCal FDC), the Climate Tech Finance team led a technology qualification and greenhouse gas analysis that deemed SWITCH eligible for a loan guarantee. This loan guarantee supported SWITCH in securing a $5 million construction and term loan with KeyBank, which enables SWITCH to bring the project to completion.

Hydrogen fuel cell ferry seen from aft prior to launch
Sea Change is prepared for launch
Categories: Ferries, News Tags: , , , , ,