The Spirit of America, pictured here, is one of nine Staten Island ferries.

The Spirit of America, pictured here, is one of nine Staten Island ferries.

At least one Staten Island ferry will be converted to clean-burning liquefied natural gas (LNG), at which point it is expected the first ferry in North America to use LNG for power.

The Passenger Vessel Association’s (PVA) said Friday that the Staten Island Ferry has chosen the Association’s ‘Green WATERS’ environmental stewardship program to, among other things, oversee the conversion of an Austen Class ferryboat to LNG fuel.

“The Staten Island Ferry is the nation’s largest passenger-only ferry system today and in keeping with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC agenda, we are committed to a cleaner, more efficient ferry fleet as part of a more sustainable future for New York City,” said Staten Island Ferry Chief Operating Officer James C. DeSimone. “LNG is a key part of this approach as we transition to cleaner-burning fuels and as we build a world-class ferry system for the long term.”

PlaNYC is a large-scale effort undertaken by Mayor Bloomberg to prepare New York City for an increase of up to one million more residents, strengthen the local economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers.

Using exemplary environmental practices, including the conversion of an Austen-Class ferry to clean-burning liquefied natural gas (LNG) that is expected to cut harmful emissions by 25 percent, the Staten Island Ferry is leading the North American charge in the growing movement by the passenger vessel industry to practice green and clean marine initiatives. The Austen-Class conversion is expected to be the first ferry in North America to use LNG for power. Along with the conversion to LNG, Staten Island Ferry has established an internal “Green Team” to assist in the reduction of energy usage, conservation of natural resources, and promote recycling.

The Staten Island Ferry operates nine ferries carrying almost 22 million passengers annually around New York City, according to the PVA. No time frame has been provided for the conversion.

The PVA environmental program, Green We Are Taking Environmental Responsibility/Stewardship (i.e. ‘Green WATERS’), is a voluntary program program designed specifically for passenger vessel operators to promote and enhance environmentally responsible practices and recognizes U.S. passenger vessel operators for demonstrating best business practices in regards in the marine environment.

In August 2011, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand first announced that the Staten Island Ferry will receive $2,340,000 in federal funding for a pilot program aimed at converting one of the ferries from the use of ultra-low diesel fuel to liquefied natural gas. The conversion to LNG is expected to reduce fuel costs by nearly 50 percent, ferry officials say.

The Washington state ferry system is also exploring using liquefied natural gas to power its ferries. Other U.S.-flagged LNG projects currently in the works are two LNG-fueled OSV’s being built for Harvey Gulf and an LNG powered containership (the world’s first) for TOTE.

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  • Adam Armstrong

    It’s great to see the S.I. ferries switching to cleaner fuels, but I’d like to see the comparison between the emissions reductions offered by newer “clean diesel” (Tier 3) maritime engines and the savings created by switching to LNG. Studies comparing the two fuels in buses, for instance, have shown that the reductions in many of the dangerous emissions (NOx, SO2, PM, CO, etc.) may be similar, however, the greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions offered by LNG are NOT as great as cleaner diesel – in the study I read, 60%+ less reduction over a 20 year period – because the production of LNG creates large amounts of Methane, which, along with CO2, is also a GHG. It’s true it’s cheaper, but if one of the reasons being given for this conversion to LNG is because of the need to address climate change, then perhaps there should be an explanation as to why the technology offering the most reduction in GHGs is not being considered. On this matter, I’m just curious.

  • Barry Parker

    I applaud this development. A cleaner bus fleet in New York has already shown benefits to the environment. So it should go around the waterfront. As this issue is covered in the future, I would be interested in questions of
    1.) What will be the infrastructure for getting LNG fuel?
    2 ) LNG is cheap now, and projected to be far cheaper than low sulfur diesel. What is the fuel pricing dynamics change in the future?

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