Damen electric road ferries are on their way to Ontario

Written by Nick Blenkey
Ferries on heavy lift ship

Ferries are keaded to Canada on Super Servant 4

What will be first fully-electric road ferries to operate in North America have departed the Damen Galati shipyard in Romania. Ordered by the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario, Canada, the 68 meter long Amherst Islander II and 98 meter long Wolfe Islander IV have been loaded on the semi-submersible transport vessel Super Servant 4 and will arrive in Lake Ontario later this month.

Both of the open-deck vessels are equipped for fully-electric operation, but also have twin diesel generators installed to allow hybrid and full diesel propulsion for maximum redundancy.

Due to the harsh winters the ferries also feature 1B Ice class hulls and 1A Ice class azimuth thrusters, allowing them to be fully operational down to -25º C (-13º F).

The delivery of the vessels marks the completion of the first of the two stages of the project. The second stage, which is well underway, is installation of the facilities that will enable the vessels to use shore power supplied via integrated shore charging and mooring systems. This will enable them to recharge their batteries while loading and unloading between the short crossings to and from the islands.

This involves not only the installation of the necessary transmission infrastructure at each of the four ferry docks, but also the complete rebuilding of the docks to accommodate the new vessels plus the onshore electrical equipment. The systems will also utilize load displacement and peak-shaving technology to achieve maximum efficiency and minimal costs.

The vessels themselves will use an innovative, fully automatic charging system developed by Wabtec Stemmann with features that include motion compensation to ensure a stable connection between the ship and the shore even in rough seas. Delivering 6 MW of power, charging takes just ten minutes.

With the shoreside works due for completion in 2022, following extensive training for crews over the remainder of 2021, the ferries will commence operations in hybrid mode using the diesel generators to supply electricity to the motors.

“This integrated project is the first of its kind and one that we hope will demonstrate that fully-electric ferries of this size are a viable proposition,” says Leo Postma, Damen Area Director Sales Americas. “Damen now offers turnkey packages for organisations looking for integrated all-electric ferry systems, working with local contractors and suppliers to install the shoreside infrastructure that best suits local requirements and conditions. It has been a pleasure working with the Government of Ontario to bring this project to fruition and we very much look forward to seeing it fully operational. This is the future!”

Damen is providing full support with staff in Ontario for the 16-month warranty period and is also establishing a service hub in British Columbia to provide long term support to the Canadian market. Damen is currently midway through a program to build and deliver six Damen Road Ferries 8117 E3 for BC Ferries. While currently fitted with hybrid propulsion systems, they are designed to be adapted for full electric propulsion in the future.

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