Washington State Ferries’ Hybrid-Electric Newbuild Program Launched at Vigor

washington state ferries
The Olympic-class Washington State Ferry Samish during sea trials in April 2015. Photo: Washington State Ferries

Washington States Ferries has officially launched its new hybrid-ferry newbuild program at Vigor’s Seattle shipyard. 

Washington’s legislature authorized a contract extension earlier this year for Vigor to build up to five 144-car Olympic class, hybrid-electric ferries over the coming years for the Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry system in the United States.

Vigor has constructed the last twelve ferries in the WSF system and has been actively engaged in the evolution of hybrid-electric solutions, including sending a team to Norway to meet with experts on best practices and available technologies for low carbon ferry systems. Vigor and WSF will again visit Norway as part of a second delegation in September 2019.

The Olympic class hull form is one of the most efficient in the fleet with less drag through the water and a small wake for a positive environmental impact. The new hybrid vessels will utilize the existing Olympic class hull form, but will be capable of 100% electric operation on most routes once the infrastructure needed for charging is installed.

The design and engineering phase to convert the existing Olympic Class design to hybrid-electric is currently underway. Vigor expects to begin construction in late 2020, and delivery of the first ferry is anticipated late in 2022.

Over the life of the vessels, WSF expects a 94% reduction in carbon emissions along with the added benefit of significantly reduced operating costs. 

Washington State Ferries’ long-term plan calls for all five ferries to be delivered by 2028, replacing aging vessels in the fleet. 

“Vigor has always deeply valued the opportunity to partner with Washington State Ferries in fabrication and repair,” said Vigor CEO Frank Foti. “Now having the opportunity to build vessels that greatly reduce carbon emissions is a great honor – both in terms of the positive impact on the environment and for the hundreds of family wage jobs created by this work.  We appreciate Governor Inslee’s leadership in this area and also the hard work the legislature undertook to make this happen.”