Damen wins bid to build four hybrid electric vessels for BC Ferries

The Netherlands-based shipbuilding powerhouse Damen Shipyards Group (Damen) is spearheading a major initiative to construct four new hybrid electric Island Class vessels for BC Ferries in Canada.

Island-class vessel built by Damen; Image credit: BC Ferries

Damen, the same shipyard that built BC Ferries’ previous six Island Class ferries, is set to construct the vessels in Romania. Their bid was chosen from several proposals received globally, with no Canadian companies submitting bids for the project. BC Ferries launched the bid for prequalification back in 2022.

This order will take the total number of ferries that Damen has supplied to BC Ferries in recent years to ten.

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The agreement with Damen is a design-build, fixed-priced contract, providing BC Ferries with substantial guarantees related to delivery dates, performance criteria, cost certainty, and quality construction, the ferry operator said.

The four new vessels are designated to enter into service on the routes connecting Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island (two vessels) and Campbell River and Quadra Island (two vessels), with corresponding electrical upgrades for shore-based rapid charging made to the four terminals on these routes.

The shoreside charging equipment will also be supplied by Damen. This will be the fourth time that Damen has provided this service, the first also being in Canada, in 2021, to support two hybrid Damen ferries delivered to the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario. These were followed by projects in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

Illustration; Image credit: Damen

“The new hybrid electric vessels will further standardize our fleet, both increasing capacity and improving our flexibility to move ships across routes so our passengers can have confidence that we’ll get them where they need to go,” said Nicolas Jimenez, BC Ferries’ President and CEO.

“We are super excited and extremely pleased with the award of four more Island Class type vessels for BC Ferries,” said Leo Postma, Damen’s Area Director Americas.

“We have teamed up with the technical staff of BC Ferries now for seven years and together we developed a very efficient series of 10 ferries in total that meet all of the future requirements of safe, reliable and sustainable waterborne public transport.”

The vessels will be based on Damen’s double-ended Island-class RoRo 8117 E3 model. The new ships will carry at least 47 vehicles and up to 390 passengers and crew and will have several features that support BC Ferries’ Clean Futures Plan goals of being efficient and environmentally responsible throughout its fleet and operations.

Specifically, they will have electric power and propulsion allowing them to operate 100% on electricity.

Namely, battery packs with a capacity of 2,000 kilowatts will supply the electricity for the power trains. Rapid recharging using renewable electricity will take place while the ferries disembark and embark their passengers and vehicles at each end. Each vessel will also have auxiliary diesel engines installed for back-up and general redundancy, Damen said.

The ferries will be outfitted with twin propellers and vibration-isolated machinery that reduces underwater and ambient noise.

The hybrid newbuilds will also integrate additional features like exhaust gas systems and selective catalytic reduction to cut nitrogen oxide emissions, low-friction, biofouling resistant hull that reduces fuel consumption as well as heat recovery systems that will use waste thermal energy to heat the vessel.

The company plans to operate these new vessels exclusively in battery-electric mode, using renewable BC Hydro electricity.

“Adding more Island Class vessels will also make it easier to deploy crew, create efficiencies in training costs, and promote safe, reliable and environmentally conscious ferry services up and down the coast.”

The Island Class electrification project will receive funding from the Government of British Columbia through the monetization of low carbon fuel credits that BC Ferries will earn under the Province’s Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements Regulation. T

his project is estimated to reduce emissions by 10,000 tons of CO2 equivalent, supporting the Province’s CleanBC goals and bringing BC Ferries closer to its 2030 targets.

The four new vessels are scheduled to enter service by 2027.