Washington State Ferries to outline its hybrid electric journey at FERRIES 2022

Written by Heather Ervin
Washington State Ferries

Credit: Washington State Ferries

Speakers at Marine Log’s upcoming FERRIES 2022 will include Matt von Ruden, administrator of Washington State Ferries’ (WSF) electrification program. On November 2, Day 2 of the conference, he will speak on WSF’s journey to going hybrid electric.

Operating the largest ferry system in the U.S., WSF is also the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions from a state agency in Washington—burning 19 million gallons of diesel fuel to support 24 million passengers each year. This puts WSF in a unique position to make a major reduction to the state’s airborne pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by electrifying its ferry fleet. By 2040, ferry electrification will reduce carbon emissions by 76% and significantly improve local air quality.

Von Ruden will go over the 16 new hybrid-electric vessels being built for WSF, converting six existing vessels to hybrid electric, and bringing electrification to 16 terminals.

Meet Matt von Ruden

Matt von Ruden

Matthew von Ruden is a maritime professional with 35 years’ experience in the government and private sectors. A 1986 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, von Ruden served 23 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, including six assignments at sea, and retired at the rank of captain in 2009.

In the commercial sector, von Ruden worked in the chemical and shipbuilding industries in California, Washington and British Columbia. He held the position of Associate Dean and Director of Seattle Maritime Academy at Seattle Central College before moving to Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division in 2015, where he became the Director of Vessel Maintenance.

In 2021, he took the helm of the Ferries’ System Electrification Program, which includes vessels, terminals, and charging infrastructure. His education includes a BS in marine engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, an MS in marine engineering and naval architecture and an MS in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an MA in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. 


SWITCH Maritime’s landmark Sea Change hydrogen-powered ferry project got a lot of attention at Marine Log’s FERRIES 2021 held last November along the New York Harbor. This year, up to 75 attendees have the chance to ride on it. Guests are encouraged to register soon, as the tour will be on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Launched in August 2021 at All American Marine, the Sea Change is a 70-foot catamaran ferry designed by Incat Crowther, equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell system from Zero Emissions Industries (ZEI), which includes 360 kW of fuel cells from Cummins and 242 kg of hydrogen storage tanks from Hexagon Purus, and a 600 kW electric propulsion system from BAE Systems that includes 100 kWh of lithium-ion battery storage from XALT. The Hornblower Group led the construction management.

The 75-passenger ferry receives gaseous hydrogen into its 242 kg tanks on the upper deck. It uses that hydrogen in fuel cells producing electricity to power electric motors for distances up to 300 nautical miles, and speeds up to 20 knots—similar capabilities to diesel-powered vessels—with the added benefits of zero exhaust smoke or other emissions and very little vibration and noise.

The Sea Change project is managed and financed by SWITCH Maritime, an impact investment firm building the first fleet of exclusively zero-carbon maritime vessels for adoption by existing ship owners and operators. Sea Change was the first vessel in the larger zero-carbon ferry fleet that SWITCH planned to construct in 2022, in partnership with municipalities and shipowners aiming to transition to carbon-free vessels. In making the transition, they were able to leverage government grant funds related to transportation decarbonization activities targeted by the landmark U.S. infrastructure bill.


While it is expected that many more will sign on, FERRIES 2022 already has nearly 40 sponsors so far.

Platinum sponsors are ABB and Cummins. Gold sponsors include Glosten, Marine Jet Power, Moteurs Baudouin, SailPlan, and Wärtsilä. Silver sponsors are All American Marine, Christie & Grey, Elkon, BMT, Elliott Bay Design Group, EMS Marcon, Helm Operations, HamiltonJet, Crowley, GL Power/Twin Disc, Karl Senner, Kongsberg, MTU – A Rolls-Royce Solution, NCP Coatings, Incat Crowther, RYPOS, and Thrustmaster. The event’s bronze sponsors so far include C-Job Naval Architects, Conrad Shipyard, BAE Systems, MOPS, Rigidized Metals, RocketRez, Steerprop, The Shearer Group Inc., United Safety & Survivability Corporation/Fireboy, Thrive Payments, and VenTek International. Siemens Energy is sponsoring the lunch on Day 1.

Registration for the event is open. The next Early Bird discount ends September 30.

For questions on sponsorships, please contact David Harkey at dharkey@sbpub.com.

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