First US Hydrogen-Fueled Ferry Approved for Commercial Operation

May 23, 2024by CN_MAR

SWITCH Maritime, a US-based shipping company, has received approval from the U.S. Coast Guard for its hydrogen-fueled ferry, Sea Change, to enter commercial operations.

Captain Taylor Q. Lam, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco commander and Captain of the Port, presented the company with the signed Certificate of Inspection (COI) for its flagship hydrogen-fueled ferry. The ceremony took place last Friday afternoon onboard the vessel’s bow, attended by several U.S. Coast Guard members and other project stakeholders.

Sea Change, a 75-passenger catamaran ferry, was built and launched at All American Marine shipyard in Bellingham, Washington. It features an integrated hydrogen power system from Zero Emission Industries (ZEI), with 360kW of fuel cells from Cummins and 600kW of electric motor propulsion from BAE Systems.

Following a formal launch event in June, Sea Change, the first hydrogen-powered ship in the U.S., will be operated in a six-month pilot service by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). After this demonstration period, SWITCH plans to put the vessel into a more permanent ferry route. Additionally, SWITCH is actively developing new designs for larger and faster ferries for the SF Bay and other major ferry markets in the U.S. and internationally.

“This COI represents the culmination of years of close collaboration with the US Coast Guard and a significant milestone for the maritime industry, demonstrating the viability of carbon-neutral vessels. We are immensely grateful for the support from the US Coast Guard and all our partners along the path to completion,” said Pace Ralli, CEO of SWITCH.

With the COI, the vessel is now able to commence commercial operation for zero-emission public ferry service. Sea Change uses hydrogen fuel cells to power all-electric motors, enabling transit distances up to 300 nautical miles and speeds up to fifteen knots. This rapidly evolving technology provides similar operational capabilities and ranges to diesel-powered vessels and eliminates the need for shoreside charging infrastructure required by battery-only vessels.

SWITCH aims to accelerate the adoption of net-zero vessels by bearing the regulatory and construction risks for operators and offering existing operators the ability to lease new vessels after completion.

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