The Time is Now for Green Solutions in the Marine Industry

It’s time to support CARB. No, this isn’t a fad, low-carbohydrate diet plan for a New Year’s resolution. It is support for new thinking behind green and environmentally-friendly transportation projects in California, which could further the state’s leadership in reducing carbon emissions.

Recently CARB – the California Air Resource Board – was approved to oversee an estimated $423 million settlement for investments in projects that will reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions throughout the state. This trust provides funding opportunities for projects that are focused on heavy-duty transportation sectors. And we hope one sector in particular isn’t overlooked: maritime, from tugs and workboats to ferries that provide valuable links for commuters in major metropolitan areas.

It seems everywhere I travel there are two common discussion openings – how’s the weather and how was traffic? The latter always leads to a more in-depth discussion as to whose city has worse traffic. This is something Californians know all too well. According to transportation analytics firm Inrix, Los Angeles-area residents top the list, spending 81 hours per commuter in traffic annually. San Francisco came in third (lucky you) at 75 hours.

While not the sole solution to traffic, or even pollution issues, ferries offer an important means of transportation across bodies of water not easily served by bridges or tunnels. Of the estimated 652 ferries in operation nationwide (passenger and vehicle), California has the second largest fleet at 55. Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, 118 million Americans take ferries annually, along with the 25 million vehicles that are transported by ferries. From 2013 to 2015, ridership in San Francisco alone increased 25 percent.

The average age of the current fleet of ferries in the U.S. is 25 years old, and 95 percent use gas or diesel for operation. In a state that is home to eight of the top 10 cities in the U.S. with the highest year-round concentration of particulate matter, fossil fuel-powered passenger vessels are contributing to the problem.1

However, the technology is available now to upgrade our aging ferry fleet to modern, sophisticated vessels. These can be economically and environmentally-friendly, from the vessel itself to its propulsion systems and charging and energy storage systems.

There’s proof in Norway, where Siemens was the supplier of the electric propulsion technology for the world’s first fully electric ferry, the MF Ampere. It’s capable of carrying 360 passengers and 120 vehicles, and completes a 10-mile crossing 34 times per day. The ferry is driven by electric motors with accompanying lithium-ion batteries.

Siemens worked with shipbuilder Fjellstrand to design and build not only the ferry, but also the innovative on-shore charging stations, about the size of a newsstand. While docked, the ship’s batteries are recharged directly from the grid at night after the ferry stops operating. This solution is both simple and ingenious.

The Ampere is a true showcase of what the future of ferry operation can look like in California and across the U.S. A conventional ferry traveling the same route as the Ampere consumes around 2.64 million gallons of diesel fuel and emits 2,680 tons of carbon dioxide and 37 tons of nitrogen oxide each year. With electricity provided to charge the Ampere coming from local hydroelectric plants, its operation doesn’t emit even one gram of carbon dioxide directly or indirectly.

We encourage Californians to take the lead in the U.S. in green solutions for the shipbuilding industry. CARB has initiated a public process, including workshops in several California cities, to receive feedback about investment opportunities. We hope you take a moment to submit your comments in support of environmentally-friendly passenger vessels and/or work boats.


For more information or assistance please contact us.

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