Casco Bay Lines gets go ahead to order new hybrid-electric ferry

Written by Nick Blenkey
Casco Bay Line Ferry

Casco Bay Lines new ferry will feature ABB's hybrid-electric power and propulsion solutions

Portland, Maine-based Casco Bay Lines — more formally Casco Bay Island Transit District — reports that it will soon begin construction of a long-awaited new ferry to service its Peaks Island route.

It will be powered by a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system, making Casco Bay Lines one of the first public ferry systems in the United States to fully utilize this technology and eliminating up to 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Since identifying the need to replace the Machigonne II, the passenger and vehicle ferry currently servicing Peaks Island, Casco Bay Lines has secured $16.3 million in funding, conducted a three-year design process and held more than fourteen public meetings in its process to develop the final vessel design that has now been approved by its board, which has authorized the Transit District’s president and general manager to execute a contract for the ferry with a qualified shipyard,

Designed by Elliot Bay Design Group the new 50 meter long vessel will increase the number of vehicles that can be carried to and from Peaks Island from an average of 10 per trip to 16, enhance passenger safety through an improved vessel layout, allow for side loading at the Portland terminal, and will feature modern fixtures and finishes.

Charging while docked in Portland, and operating in battery-powered mode whenever possible, the new propulsion system will eliminate up to 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. It will also dramatically improve both the passenger and community experience by significantly reducing exhaust fumes, excessive engine noise and vibrations.

The system will be provided by ABB, which was selected through a competitive RFP process.


In part because of its alignment with federal, state and local goals related to modernizing transit systems and reducing their climate impact, the new vessel and propulsion system has received support from U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King; Congresswoman Chellie Pingree; the Federal Transit Administration (FTA); Maritime Administration (MARAD); the Maine Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future; Maine Department of Transportation; City of Portland; PACTS (MPO) Policy Committee; Greater Portland Council of Governments; Maine Clean Communities; Friends of Casco Bay; and the Island Institute.

Casco Bay Lines was awarded nearly $4 million in 2020 for the propulsion system, including $3.2 million in competitive grant funding to procure the technology through the FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant program, and $750,000 through the MARAD Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program to go towards various components of the project.

Casco Bay Lines will work with MARAD to assess efficiency data and carry out additional testing and reporting on the hybrid engine and battery charging systems for use by others in the maritime industry.


“Momentum for lower carbon footprint ferry operations continues to grow worldwide,” said Bruce Strupp, Senior Account Manager, New Build, ABB Marine & Ports. “ABB is honored that its integrated electric, digital and connected solutions are being considered integral as more and more U.S. operators replace obsolete vessels to match regulatory and societal demands.”

“Hundreds of thousands of passengers ride the Casco Bay Lines ferry between Portland and Peaks Island each year,” said Hank Berg, General Manager of Casco Bay Lines. “Increasingly, ferry passengers prioritize sustainability as a service expectation, in addition to reliability and comfort. The ability to switch to zero-emission battery power in port is also a clear environmental benefit for residents in Portland and Peaks Island. We look forward to a close collaboration with ABB and we can’t wait to see the end result.”


Within its integration, engineering, automation and equipment supply roles, ABB will deliver the award-winning Onboard DC Grid power distribution system to give full control over when and how the vessel uses its diesel generators, the 904-kWh battery energy storage system or a combination of the two to optimize energy consumption at any load.

ABB is also supplying an automated shore charging system for installation at the Port of Portland, which automatically connects at the dock and will not require any additional port time to charge the vessel.

Smooth running, remote monitoring and predictive maintenance will be supported through the inclusion of the ABB Ability Remote Diagnostics System in the vessel.


The contract for vessel construction will be awarded to a shipyard following a competitive bidding process. It is Casco Bay Lines’ hope to have the new vessel in operation by the end of 2022.

More information is available at

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