VESSEL REVIEW | Sea Change – Hydrogen-fuelled demonstrator ferry for San Francisco Bay Area

VESSEL REVIEW | Sea Change – Hydrogen-fuelled demonstrator ferry for San Francisco Bay Area

Photo: SWITCH Maritime

US vessel owner SWITCH Maritime recently began a six-month pilot program wherein its newest all-aluminium catamaran ferry will sail operationally in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

Measuring 72 by 24.5 feet (21.9 by 7.4 metres) and with capacity for 84 passengers plus two crewmembers, Sea Change is a hydrogen fuel cell-powered, electric-drive ferry that will operate in the Bay Area. A moulded draught of only 4.5 feet (1.37 metres) permits safe navigation even in restrictive shallow waters.

The vessel is equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell power package provided by Zero Emissions Industries. This consists of Cummins fuel cells with a total output of 360 kW and Hexagon hydrogen storage tanks with a capacity of 246 kilograms, allowing the ferry to sail up to 300 nautical miles. The only emissions generated by the fuel cells is pure water even when the ferry is cruising at speeds in excess of 20 knots.

Photo: Incat Crowther

The propulsion system is integrated with 100 kWh of power supplied by an XALT Energy lithium-ion battery and two 300kW electric propulsion motors provided by BAE Systems. The hydrogen fuel cell powertrain system affords the same operational flexibility as diesel with zero emissions and less maintenance.

For navigation, the ferry relies on electronics that include a Furuno radar.

Construction of Sea Change began with the fabrication of the hull and the superstructure at the Alameda, California facilities of Bay Ship and Yacht. Completion that included installation of the fuel cells and the hydrogen storage tanks took place in Bellingham, Washington. The design is compliant to US Coast Guard Subchapter T regulations.

Photo: Incat Crowther

The pilot service in the Bay Area will consist of four round trips daily between the Downtown San Francisco Ferry Terminal and the city’s northern waterfront. During this six-month period, the vessel will be operated by local ferry company Blue and Gold Fleet under contract with the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority.

SWITCH Maritime and the other project partners expect Sea Change’s operational sailings will also provide data that will help facilitate the future large-scale application of hydrogen propulsion systems in passenger vessels.

Photo: Incat Crowther

Click here to read other news stories, features, opinion articles, and vessel reviews as part of this month’s Passenger Vessel Week.

Sea Change
Type of vessel: Commuter ferry
Classification: US Coast Guard Subchapter T
Flag: USA
Owner: SWITCH Maritime, USA
Operator: Blue and Gold Fleet, USA
Builder: Bay Ship and Yacht, USA
Hull construction material: Aluminium
Superstructure construction material: Aluminium
Deck construction material: Aluminium
Length overall: 72 feet (21.9 metres)
Beam: 24.5 feet (7.4 metres)
Draught: 4.5 feet (1.37 metres)
Depth: 9.5 feet (2.9 metres)
Propulsion: 2 x BAE Systems, each 300 kW
Cruising speed: 20 knots
Range: 300 nautical miles
Batteries: XALT Energy lithium-ion, 100 kWh
Radar: Furuno
Other equipment installed: Cummins fuel cells; Hexagon storage tanks
Type of fuel: Hydrogen
Fuel capacity: 246 kilograms
Crew: 2
Passengers: 84
Operational area: San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA

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