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The Washington State Ferry Wenatchee

WSF Wenatchee. Photo: Stephen Reeves/Shutterstock

Washington State Ferries Awards Hybrid-Electric Power Conversion Contract for Up to Three Ferries

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1326
August 16, 2023

Washington State Ferries has awarded a contract to Vigor for the conversion of up to three of its largest ferries to hybrid-electric power as the nation’s largest ferry system sets its sights on zero emissions by 2050.

The contract is for the conversion of two Jumbo Mark II-class ferries, the Wenatchee and Tacoma, for approximately $100 million, with a fixed-price option to convert a third Jumbo Mark II-class vessel, the Puyallup, in 2025. Vigor will also update aging propulsion system controls to extend the life expectancy of the vessels.

The contract is the first conversion contract and largest overall contract to date in WSF’s $3.98 billion electrification program, which involves the retrofitting six current diesel ferries to hybrid electric, building 16 new hybrid vessels, retiring 13 diesel ferries, and add charging power to 16 terminals over the next 17 years.

Vigor won the contract with a winning bid of just over $150 million, beating out the second highest bid of $166 million. The state estimated the project would come in at approximately $120 million.

Serving some 24 million passengers every yearWashington State Ferries is the the largest ferry system in the U.S. and the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions among Washington state agencies. Meanwhile, ferry operators throughout northern Europe have converted more than 70 ferries to hybrid-electric power since 2015. WSF’s shift to hybrid-electric ferries comes in response to direction from Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington Legislature, and aligns with WSF’s Long Range Plan.

“This contract is a big step toward providing our ferry-served communities with better air quality and more sustainable service,” said Matt von Ruden, System Electrification Program Administrator. “We’re tackling the biggest emitters in our fleet first, the Jumbo Mark IIs, which contribute 26% of our ferries’ greenhouse gas emissions. When our terminals are electrified in 2026, we expect emissions from these three vessels to drop by roughly 95%.”

The contract for the hybrid-electric conversion of the ferries also includes the replacement of propulsion control systems to increase reliability and ensure availability for years to come due to equipment failures and lack of replacement parts.

Vigor is expected to start work on Wenatchee at its Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle in September. The ferry is expected to reenter service on the Seattle/Bainbridge route next summer. Vigor will then begin converting Tacoma in 2024. WSF has the option to extend the contract to convert a third vessel, Puyallup, in 2025.

“Vigor and our skilled employees are proud to be continuing our strong partnership with Washington State Ferries,” said Adam Beck, Vigor executive vice president of ship repair. “Our long history with WSF makes Vigor the best place to help propel our ferry system into a low-emission, sustainable future which supports family-wage jobs all across Puget Sound. We look forward to getting to work and getting these ferries back in service for the thousands of Puget Sound residents who rely on them.”

To help pay for the electrification program, WSF has received $1.34 billion, with $1.03 billion from the 2022 Move Ahead Washington transportation package and over $40 million in competitive grants, demonstrating a commitment to reduce transportation system emissions and address climate change.

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