BC Ferries

Ferry innovation? Wazzat?

The following was first published in 2013 and has been updated.

Eighteen years after Norway committed to using LNG and CNG powered ferries, BC’s highly paid fleet commanders are dipping toes into alternative fuels. Three ferries added to the fleet in 2017 were constructed in Poland with duel fuel capacity: natural gas and diesel.

However, innovators in Norway have moved beyond. Sustainability expert Bjørn K. Haugland believes that within a few years, most Norwegian ferries will be battery-powered.


Siemens, a multinational engineering and electronics giant, provides detail about a new vessel that is only a little smaller than those coming from Poland in BC Ferries’ $252 million purchase.

Together with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, Siemens has developed the world’s first electrically powered car ferry. The 80-meter vessel can carry 120 cars and 360 passengers. The vessel currently serving the route uses approx one million liters of diesel a year and emits 2680 metric tons of carbon dioxide and 37 metric tons of nitrogen oxides.

The ferry has been specially designed to accommodate the requirements of an electric drive system. As a catamaran with two slim hulls, it offers less resistance in the water than a conventional vessel. Furthermore, the hulls are made of aluminum instead of steel, which is conventionally used. Rather than a diesel engine, the ferry is equipped with electric motors to drive the ship’s two screws. The new vessel weighs only half as much as a ferry of conventional design.

The crucial feature of the new ferry is that it only takes 10 minutes to recharge the batteries. Hundreds of ferries link Norway’s mainland to the islands off its coast and provide routes across its many fjords. Using today’s battery and recharging technology, all crossings of up to 30 minutes in duration could be served by electrically powered vessels.re

ampere 550

With 20 directors on two boards and two well compensated ferry commissioners overseeing the highest priced ferry managers in the world, BC Ferries should be world leaders in innovation.

They are not.

Norwegian ferry operator Fjord1 has many LNG ferries in service or on order, with the largest equipped to carry more than 250 vehicles. Now, they’re putting into service five new hybrid ferries that will operate on LNG and battery power.

lng hybrid

Multi Maritime is a Norwegian company that has designed more than 30 high-efficiency ferries including hybrids and pure electrics.

Norway has a population about 10% larger than British Columbia. It appears the Norwegian ability to innovate is substantially higher than that of Canadians. From the article A new fleet of all-electric ferries with massive battery packs is going into production:

The Havyard shipyard announced that it received a contract to build seven battery-powered ferries for Fjord1, Norwegian transport conglomerate.

The news comes after the operators of the first all-electric ferry in Norway, the ‘Ampere’, reported some impressive statistics after operating the ship for over 2 years.

They claim that the all-electric ferry cuts emissions by 95% and costs by 80%.

Unsurprisingly, the potential cost savings are attracting a lot of orders for new electric ferries and for the conversion of existing diesel-powered ferries…

ferries 550

A message was received from Geir Bjørkeli, CEO of Corvus Energy, which “provides high power energy storage in the form of modular lithium ion battery systems. Its purpose-built, field-proven battery systems provide sustained power to hybrid and all-electric heavy industrial equipment, including large marine propulsion drives.”

I think you shall add to your article linked below that the batteries used in the vessels mentioned in the article by Siemens are developed and made in Richmond, BC by Corvus Energy.

This is a press release by the company:

Norwegian Electric Systems selects Corvus energy storage system for Fjord1 ferries

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada – May 22, 2018 – Corvus Energy is pleased to announce that the company has been selected by Norwegian Electric System (NES) to supply lithium ion battery-based energy storage systems (ESS) for two new all-electric ferries being built by Havyard for Norwegian ferry operator Fjord1. The ferries will operate on the Magerholm-Sykkylven route. This follows a previous order in November 2017 to supply the ESSs for three similar newbuilt Fjord1 ferries that will operate on the Hareid-Sulesund route.

Each of the five all-electric ferries, which are 111 meters in length and holds 120 cars, will be equipped with a 2.9 MWh Corvus Orca Energy ESS that will supply electrical power to the ferry’s NES all-electric power and propulsion systems. The ferries are expected to be delivered in 2019.

“Fjord1 continues to forge a very progressive path towards environmentally sustainable operations with these additional all-electric ferries,” says Stein Ruben Larsen, Vice President Sales at NES, a total system integrator of electric systems for the global marine market. With respect to their ESS selection, he remarks, “The proven reliability, safety and performance of the air-cooled Orca ESS was important in awarding this contract to Corvus Energy.”

“Corvus Energy is honoured to once again be selected to provide Orca Energy Storage Systems for Fjord1 ferries,” says Roger Rosvold, Director of Sales & Key Account at Corvus Energy. “NES are skilled and experienced electrical system integrators, and our close partnership with them in designing and delivering these innovative solutions is key to accelerating the adoption of energy storage systems.”

As the leading manufacturer of energy storage systems for maritime applications, Corvus Energy provides battery power to more hybrid or all-electric ferries than all other providers of energy storage systems combined. Corvus offers the innovative Orca ESS solutions portfolio and has unsurpassed experience from 140+ projects, totaling over 100 MWh and 1.5 million operating hours.


Washington State Ferries plans to convert its biggest vessels to electric power, Seattle Times, May 4, 2018:

Washington State Ferries announced plans Thursday to convert its three largest vessels from running on diesel fuel to electric power…

The design for the conversion process, which will rely on research from Scandinavian countries, is set to begin this summer.

…Norway leads the world in the development and application of electric technology in transportation…

“We’re going to learn from their experiences and bring that technology to Washington state,” [ Secretary of Transportation Roger] Millar said.

Categories: BC Ferries, Norway

20 replies »

  1. Seems like a much more sensible use than piping/freezing/sailing the stuff to the Chinese. Now if only some enterprising agency would only apply this concept to the propellant of Railway Engines. Perhaps the domestic use of the stuff would reduce our energy costs to the extent our manufacturing industry could again be competitive.
    Johns Aghast


  2. How bout retro coal locomotive.we have lots of it.
    And about ferries figure a way to paint rust on the boats.Some boats are almost as rusty as the van city hall flag poles .


  3. We in British Columbia are not against fueling ships, trains, factories or buildings with coal. It's just we want the coal burned elsewhere. By burning the coal in Asia, that won't have any effect on our part of the world. Will it?

    Maybe the reason BC Ferries has dragged its heals on LNG powered ships is that they're planning a conversion to nuclear. Nov, if there is a way to treat rust with radiation, that would be a clincher.


  4. I think powering BC ferries with Nat Gas is a great idea. Better than exporting it as LNG. I also like the rotor sails.

    Trucks, cars and buses can all be converted to nat gas. It's probably cheaper than gasoline, and would mean less reliance on the dirty oil sands, I reckon.

    BC could provide encouragement with subsidies to make the conversions. Why not?


  5. Unfortunately, BC really doesn't do very much that makes sense – let alone come up with something that makes a real contribution to the green house gas problem. Why would they, the BC Liberal government agenda is corporate driven and not to save money for the province, rather to suck as much away from the public coffers as time allows.

    Engine manufacturers of Fairbanks Morse engines used in diesel locomotives and ships, have been using natural gas for fuel for decades – it isn't something new. Canada and especially the current British Columbia Provincial Government are way behind the rest of the world regarding smart ideas because the whole premise of being innovative and saving taxpayer money is lost on them. It takes someone with a decent dose of common sense to show the way – a country like Norway – that has wisely invested north sea oil income to ensure future financial stability, that it is possible to be innovative and environmentally sound in engineering proposals. This is something that British Columbia is sadly lacking in – lets build (waste of money) on a three billion dollar bridge and cram more cars and trucks into Vancouver instead of providing an efficient and affordable railway system. Lets send our tax payers money overseas to build ships instead of building them right here in BC WTF ?

    Words fail to adequately describe the pathetic legacy of Gordon “pinnochio” Campbell where grabbing public funds and stupidity vie for dominance.



  6. LNG for B.C. Ferries makes sense. Makes more sense than shipping it elsewhere. This country ought to use its own resources in its own country instead of shipping it overseas as such a high speed. Our country will be around for as long as the population is here. Lets save some of this for the citizens of Canada, who will be here in two hundred years.

    Running B.C. Ferries, on LNG, would reduce costs and pollution. The industry might want to look at fueling vehicles this way also. Most of our driving is done to work and back. Just think of the savings, if people could run their cars on LNG–environmental and monetarily.

    now the picture of the “propose” ferry, sort of reminds me of another set of ferries. The ones el gordo sold for nickels and dimes. Oh, how wonderful. Now we have ferries built in Germany and Poland and no jobs created in B.C.

    Norway has managed its natural resource revenue much more smartly than Canada has. They'll still be enjoying the benefits for centuries to come. B.C./Canada, we'll be broke and cleaning up the pollution China will have left us.


  7. Re Polish built ferries – how are they being paid for. Have the BC Lieberals paid cash or are they taking out another loan in an overseas country (Poland) ?
    Something is going on no doubt, but it will be quite some time before the people of BC find out the details – if at all.
    Of course using LNG and propane to fuel vehicles, ships, trains makes eminent sense. I 1983 I had a 1976 F150 pickup powered with propane and it was cheap to run.

    The current British Columbia government is very slooooooow on the uptake where common sense is concerned.



  8. November 30, 2013 LNG BC Ferry Report 3GA Marine
    Review of the technical specifications for the BCFS intermediate class ferry and the provisions of the BC Ferry Commission Order 13-01 – 13-11-13-3ga-report.pdf

    ….. the current BCF requirement specifies a dual fuel diesel and Liquid Natural Gas engine, which is less efficient than a diesel only engine. Accordingly, the fuel efficiency target for the dual fuel engine is lower and is expected to result in a predicted fuel efficiency of 6.5%, which is included in the RRP technical specifications.

    Endurance and Fuel Efficiency

    The Vessel shall be capable of operating for seven (7) days standard duty cycle on LNG without refueling: there shall be sufficient diesel carried for four (4) days standard duty cycle when running the DF engines on diesel only. The design deadweight shall be based on this operating cycle, exclusive of any reserve.

    Note: A duel fuel engine uses a small amount of diesel fuel to initiate the ignition of the air / gas mixture in the engine. At fully rated loads this can be as low as 1% of the total fuel however at lower loads the % of diesel used increases significantly

    One Question. On page 4 of 9: 5500 hours annual operation; 16 hour operational day

    5500 hours annual operation / 16 hours day = 343.75 days

    A year is 365 days

    21.25 days non-operational????

    Then there's the small matter of spray on the deck 95% of the time: Beaufort Sea State 5 rating, which specifies a wave height of 2 meters.


  9. Information provided in this page is informative and interesting.One of the famous firm Norwegian shipping firm Norled introducing world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries.It uses just 150kWh per route and which equals to 3 days use of electricity in Norewgian household.Addition of this ferry will be the boost for Norway's coastline.


    • How many BC ferry routes are just 4 miles each way? Which require 34 trips a day between two “villages” apparently of such size that the ferry requires a 120 car capacity? There are some short routes in BC but no info I can find as to actual length.

      But in Norway there are apparently about 50 such routes suitable for this giant electric punt, they say – it thus appears to be part of a road network, unless villages are so much bigger in Norway that thousands of people a day need to be in one village or the other at all hours.

      Horses for courses.

      Using CNG in heavy duty diesels is another matter entirely, and properly developed seems very positive. And guess what, BC has the leading company developing such technology, Westport: westport.com
      No point in using them – we Canadians never pay attention to our best until they make it abroad, from entertainers to technology. We are a strange lot, ripe for plucking. We appreciate mediocrity.

      I’m from another part of Canada, the other coast, and a retired former mechanical engineer. Quite how BC Ferries has been so screwed up that it buys ships from Europe is beyond me. It seems like some variation of the ludicrous P3 partnerships so beloved of politicians that are foisted off on the citizenry, including by the current federal Liberal government – Kinder Morgan monetary indemnification anyone? A ready made system for picking the pockets of general society while much hand waving by pols is evident only when something new is unveiled. We help the privateers to gain cheap loans with government backing and a handout for good luck, then let them run the result as monopolies. Retired pols magically appear on their boards of directors. A scam on the public if ever there was one. Beware Australian, Spanish and French plus US companies with smooth talking PR frontmen who really like this sort of stuff. Britain gets such cheap water rates using this system. Not.

      If anyone can prove the private sector is more efficient than government at running public utilities, other than blah blah free market promoters with no data but big mouth harangues, I’d like to see the fiscal evidence. Or you can believe the propaganda and ride the crappy result of privatization of British Rail on your next vacation there and wonder at the stupendously wonderful and modern results. The best these privateers do is to merely match the publicly run companies, and profit demands that employees get paid less than formerly. Great, isn’t it? That’s efficiency all right.



  10. We if the Federal government preferred to invest in innovative shipbuilding site that would employ hundreds of people rather than use taxpayer $ to pay Texas Oil companies to allow them to build bitumen piplelines, we just might not buy so many ferries from Europe! Which is the smarter scenario?


  11. quadra -1.8mi all nautical (1nm=1.1508mi)
    cortez 6.2mi
    Earls-Saltry 9.5mi

    Denman is cable pully?


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