Halifax transit ferry
Image source: Halifax Transit

The Halifax Regional Municipality is adding an electric ferry to its public transportation fleet as part of electrification transition, it said in a June announcement

The first zero emission ferry with net-zero, energy efficient passenger terminals is coming to Nova Scotia as part of a joint $3.3 million study between the federal and provincial governments and the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). The plans for the electric ferry were first announced as part of the city’s Rapid Transit Strategy last year, but this latest announcement is the first funding commitment made.

As part of the Rapid Transit Strategy, Halifax will also be electrifying part of their current bus fleet with a long term goal of electrifying over 200 buses by 2028. Both initiatives are responses to meeting the province’s 2030 emissions targets. Currently, transportation is Nova Scotia’s second highest source of greenhouse gases.

“This is an exciting project that will deliver a more convenient transit link for commuters and help Nova Scotia address climate change,” said Kelly Regan, Minister of Community Services, on behalf of Chuck Porter, Minister of Energy and Mines, in the announcement press release.

“Transitioning away from diesel ferries is part of the electrification of public transit systems, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and will help us toward our target of cutting emissions to 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.”

Multiple stakeholders interested

Funding for Halifax’s new terminals and electric ferry will come from all levels of government. The province is investing $1.1 million, the federal government will contribute $1.3 million, and the Halifax Regional Municipality is contributing $917,000.

Prior to this announcement the only previous funding details came from the 2020 provincial government business plan, which reads, in part, “Significant electrification of public transit including new electric buses for transit authorities, new hybrid ferries, a new ferry route from Bedford Basin to downtown Halifax, and enhanced active transportation networks around the province will be explored.”

Proposed ferry service routes under Halifax's Rapid Transit Strategy
Proposed ferry service routes under Halifax’s Rapid Transit Strategy

The Mill Cove service will join the HRM’s two other ferries: the Alderney Ferry that travels from Halifax to downtown Dartmouth and the Woodside Ferry which goes from Halifax to Woodside.

The project is expected to be completed in two phases. Phase 1 involves ferry technology research and designs, a concept design of the new zero-emission, energy efficient terminal in Bedford, along with the retrofit design of the current Halifax terminal and is expected to be completed in early 2022.

Phase 2, the detailed design and construction phase, will follow after that date, with transit officials hoping to have the electric ferry operational in 2024. It is not yet announced where the ferries will be purchased from or if there is a selected vendor.

“Getting moving on this long-anticipated ferry project will open up Halifax Harbour in new ways to more people, creating exciting opportunities for communities to connect while helping residents green their commute,” said Mayor Mike Savage in a press release.