Electrifying Toronto airport ferry yields big GHG savings

Written by Nick Blenkey
Electrifying ferry saved GHG

The 90 second ferry run to and from Billy Bishop Airport is one of the shortest in the world at just 121 meters. [Image: PortsToronto]

Following a 20-week refit, the Marilyn Bell I ferry, which connects passengers, vehicles and supplies to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, is now the first fully-electric ferry in Canada. It is powered by a zero-emission, lithium-ion power and propulsion system containing no diesel components.

As we noted back in December 2019 when the conversion project was announced, the ferry was an obvious candidate for this type of retrofit. The 90 second ferry run to and from Billy Bishop Airport is one of the shortest in the world at just 121 meters. However, though the trip is short, service is frequent: there is a ferry approximately every 15 minutes. The first ferry to the airport leaves the ferry terminal at 5:15 a.m. ET and the last ferry from the airport to the mainland departs at about 12:07 a.m. ET.


According to PortsToronto, owner and operator of Billy Bishop Airport, the retrofit has eliminated greenhouse gas emissions from the ferry operation, reducing the airport’s direct emissions by approximately 530 tonnes per year. In addition to operating more efficiently and eliminating related air emissions, the retrofitted vessel builds on the airport’s award-winning Noise Management Program, as it will operate far more quietly, reducing related noise in the surrounding community.

In operation since 2010, and upgraded to bio-diesel fuel in 2018, the Marilyn Bell I returned to service at Billy Bishop Airport on December 15 following a retrofit that saw its diesel generators and engines removed to make space for a zero-emission, lithium-ion power and propulsion system.

Three Canadian companies were selected for this project. As developers of the winning concept and proposal, St. Catharines, Ontario-based marine electrical engineering specialist Canal Marine & Industrial Inc. was the prime designer, while Quebec based Concept Naval was the naval architect. Nova Scotia-based E.Y.E marine consultants assisted with the implementation of the project.

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