First US hydrogen-fueled ferry okayed for commercial operation

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

SWITCH Maritime

As informed, the company was presented with the signed Certificate of Inspection (COI) by Captain Taylor Q. Lam, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco commander and Captain of the Port, for its flagship hydrogen ferry.

The ceremony took place last Friday afternoon onboard the bow of the vessel, along with several members of the U.S. Coast Guard and other project stakeholders.

SWITCH Maritime

Built and launched at All American Marine shipyard in Bellingham, Washington, Sea Change is a 75-passenger catamaran ferry featuring 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.

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Following a formal launch event in June, Sea Change, dubbed 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 the initial demonstration period, SWITCH will put the vessel into a more permanent ferry route. Alongside Sea Change, SWITCH is actively advancing new designs for larger and faster ferries for SF Bay, and other major ferry markets in the US 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 for transit distances up to 300 nautical miles and speeds up to fifteen knots. The 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, according to the shipping company.

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

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