Sister electric ferries now en route to Amherst Island and Wolfe Island
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Sep 20, 2021
Mehanaz Yakub

The new electric ferries, which are crossing the Atlantic to reach their new Lake Ontario home, will be part of Canada’s ever-growing zero-emissions marine fleet

The Amherst Islander II electric ferry is currently making its way across the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to start service in Ontario in 2022

The new electric ferries, which are crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Romania where they were built, are set to begin service from Kingston on eastern Lake Ontario in 2022

A set of two electric ferries are on their way to Lake Ontario, from Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania. The open deck ships — the 68-metre Amherst Islander II and 98-metre Wolfe Islander IV — have the capacity to hold 40 vehicles and 75 vehicles, respectively, and are expected to start operating year round on the Milhaven-Amherst Island and Kingston-Wolfe Island routes, starting 2022.

Ordered by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation in 2018, the vessels are specifically designed to withstand Canadian winters and have the capability to cross on 60 centimetres of ice and remain operational at -25 degrees C.

The new Amherst Islander II will be replacing its predecessor, the Frontenac II, which will serve as a backup to both Amherst and Wolfe island services. While the current Wolfe Islander III will stay in service during rush hours to help speed up foot traffic when the new Wolfe Islander IV arrives.

About 850,000 passengers and 420,000 vehicles travel between Kingston-Wolfe Island routes and another 290,000 passengers and 136,000 vehicles to and from Amherst Island ever year. Damen said in press release that the company is “working with the Ontario government to install the facilities that will enable the vessels to use shore power supplied via integrated shore charging and mooring systems. This will enable them to recharge their batteries while loading and unloading between the short crossings to and from the islands.”

Those shoreside works are set to be completed in 2022. Until that time the ferries will begin to operate in a “hybrid mode” using diesel generators to supply the boats with electricity.

Charging infrastructure no small feat

The Damen ferries are currently being transported trans-Atlantic on a semi-submersible vessel after leaving Romania on Aug. 26. They are expected to arrive in Canada this month.

But that’s the easy part.

After the ferries’ delivery, Damen will continue working with the Ontario government to install DC charging facilities, as part of the second phase of the project. The project is well underway, says Damen, as the company recently enlisted battery storage and energy company, Leclanché to help provide and install fast charging electric stations, along with a electrical storage system for the ferries next year.

“[The facilities] will enable the vessels to use shore power supplied via integrated shore charging and mooring systems. This will enable them to recharge their batteries while loading and unloading between the short crossings to and from the islands,” reads the press release.

The systems include load displacement and peak-shaving technology to reach maximum efficiency and lower costs. While the ships themselves have the capabilities to charge in 10 minutes, delivering 6MW of power and are equipped with fully automatic systems, which features motion compensation technology that will create stable connections between ship and shore in bad weather.

“This integrated project is the first of its kind and one that we hope will demonstrate that fully electric ferries of this size are a viable proposition,” says Damen’s area director of sales in the Americas, Leo Postma.

“It has been a pleasure working with the Government of Ontario to bring this project to fruition and we very much look forward to seeing it fully operational.”

Damen will be providing warranty support to the Ontario ferries for 16 months and is establishing a service hub in British Columbia to offer long-term support to the Canadian market.

Damen’s B.C. offices come as the company is already in the middle of a program to build and deliver half a dozen electric ferries to BC Ferries. The fourth vessel of six arrived in B.C. in early August and a fifth is currently en route. All six ferries will have hybrid propulsion capabilities but are designed to be convertible to fully electric in the future.

Meanwhile, back on Lake Ontario, the Marilyn Bell is poised to become the first operational electric ferry in Canada, as reported by Electric Autonomy Canada in July. The lithium-ion battery-powered ship will travel between Toronto Island Airport and Queens Quay and is operated by PortsToronto.

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