Washington State Ferries to convert largest ferries to hybrid-electric power

US government agency that operates automobile and passenger ferry service Washington State Ferries (WSF) has decided to convert its largest vessels to hybrid-electric power.

Washington State Ferries

As informed, the contract for the conversion of up to three umbo Mark II-class ferries was awarded to local shipbuilding and shiprepair company Vigor.

While converting WSF’s largest ferries to hybrid-electric power, Vigor will also update aging propulsion system controls to extend the life expectancy of these vessels.

This contract is for the conversion of two vessels at approximately $100 million with a fixed-price option to convert the third vessel in 2025.  The move is part of WSF’s journey to zero emissions by 2050.

“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%.”

This September, Vigor will start work on Wenatchee at its Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle. 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 boat, Puyallup, in 2025.

Conversion of the state’s largest ferries to hybrid-electric power marks WSF’s first step toward electrification of the ferry system. This innovative initiative drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions and prepares Washington for a changing climate. The program will:

  • Retrofit six current diesel ferries to hybrid electric.
  • Build 16 new hybrid vessels.
  • Retire 13 diesel ferries.
  • Add charging power to 16 terminals.

This is the largest conversion contract in WSF’s $3.98 billion electrification program. Over the next 17 years, WSF will spend $3.7 billion to electrify or build new ferries and $280 million on terminals. 

So far, WSF has received $1.34 billion, with $1.03 billion from the 2022 Move Ahead Washington transportation package.

This state funding builds on over $40 million in competitive grants, demonstrating a commitment at both the state and federal levels to address climate change by reducing transportation system emissions.