Nation's first all-electric vehicle ferry enters service

The following is text of a news release from Glosten:

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — Alabama’s historic Gee’s Bend Ferry recently entered service after being converted from geared diesel to become the first zero-emission, electric-powered passenger/car ferry in the United States. Owned by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and operated by HMS Ferries, the 15-vehicle/132-passenger ferry runs on the Alabama River between Camden and Boykin, Ala.

Glosten, a naval architecture and marine engineering firm headquartered in Seattle, provided concept through contract design and shipyard technical support of the vessel conversion to all-electric. HMS Ferries teamed with HMS Consulting and managed the project from start to finish.

“This was a significant project in the marine industry. The Gee’s Bend Ferry demonstrates how battery technology can be implemented as a means of propulsion, paving the way for further adoption of this technology,” said Glosten marine engineer Jeff Rider.

Marine Interface Inc. of East Northport, N.Y., integrated the new electric propulsion system with support from American Traction Systems (power conversion) and Spear Power Systems (batteries). Cochran Marine was responsible for shipboard and shore-side charging stations.

Conversion of the ferry was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Funded through ALDOT, the EPA supported the project with a $1.09 million Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant in 2016.

“As a first-of-its-kind vessel in North America, the Gee’s Bend Ferry will have impact far beyond the state borders. Successfully achieving United States Coast Guard approval of the vessel helps open this technology across the maritime industry,” said Tim Aguirre, general manager for HMS Ferries Alabama.

The electrification of the Gee’s Bend Ferry will mean lower operating costs, reduced noise, and reduced emissions and pollution for the residents of Alabama. Most importantly, the ferry will be a symbol of innovative technology for this culturally rich region.

By Professional Mariner Staff