All-Electric Ferry Project for Anacortes Moves Forward

Rendering courtesy Glosten

Published May 7, 2020 5:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

Skagit County and ship design firm Glosten are moving forward with the development of an all-electric ferry design for the short run between Guemes Island and the port of Anacortes, Washington. The county is now seeking vendor input on equipment cost and capabilities before developing the final specifications for the vessel.

The scope covers the entirety of the electrical system for the vessel and its operation, including the bus, the propulsion system, the shoreside charging system and an automated charging plug connection. 

“This is relatively new propulsion technology – we need to make sure we get this right. We believe this level of engagement with the vendor community will allow us and Glosten to develop the best design for our community,” said Captain Rachel Rowe, Skagit County Public Works Ferry Operations Division Manager.

Skagit County Public Works hired Glosten in 2017 to develop an all-electric ferry design to replace the current ferry, a 40-year old diesel-powered vessel named Guemes. The new vessel will be a double-ended vehicle and passenger ferry with a three-tiered deckhouse. The design accommodates four lanes of vehicles, including highway-rated trucks and emergency vehicles.

The vehicle and passenger ferry service between Anacortes and Guemes Island has been in operation since the early 1960s. The current vessel, the M/V Guemes, is a 20-vehicle, 100-passenger, diesel-powered ferry that was built and put into service in 1979. Today, the ferry operates 365 days a year and transports about 200,000 vehicles and 400,000 passengers annually.  

In addition to transporting commuters, the ferry also carries tourist traffic, construction and logging trucks, essential services trucks, and emergency vehicles to and from the island. Reliability will be key for the new ferry, as there are no alternative roads or highways that provide access to Guemes Island.

When commissioned, the new Guemes Island ferry will be among the first all-electric vessels of its kind in the United States. All-electric passenger vessels are becoming more common for short runs in Scandinavia, particularly in Norway, but are just beginning to make their debut in the North American market.