BC Ferries Contracts Damen to Build Its First Fully-Electric RoRos

BC Ferries
The four new ferries will use the RoRo design and add hybrid electric power (Damen)

Published Jan 17, 2024 8:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Canada’s BC Ferries, which bills itself as one of the largest ferry operators in the world, awarded the shipbuilding contract for four unique hybrid electric vessels to the Damen Shipyards Group. Due to enter service in 2027, the company reports it plans to operate these new vessels exclusively in battery-electric mode, using renewable BC Hydro electricity to power the charging stations.

The design for the vessels is based on the Island Class which Damen delivered to BC Ferries between 2020 and 2022. They currently operate six of the vessels and with the addition of the four new ferries it will become the single largest class of vessels in the company’s fleet. Each vessel will have the capacity for up to 390 passengers and crew and will carry at least 47 vehicles. The ferries are double-ended RoRos with a twin propeller design.

The battery packs for the four new ferries will have a capacity of 2,000 kilowatts that will supply the electricity for the power trains. Rapid recharging using renewable electricity will take place while the ferries disembark and embark their passengers and vehicles at each end of the route. Each vessel will also have auxiliary diesel engines installed for backup and general redundancy and an exhaust system with selective catalytic reduction to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. 

Other environmental systems include heat recovery which uses waste thermal energy to heat the vessel. They will also use a low-friction, biofouling-resistant hull coating to reduce power consumption. Light will be entirely LED onboard.


Damen built six earlier ferries of the class between 2020 and 2022 for BC Ferries (BC Ferries)


The project was begun in 2022 with the first requests released by BC Ferries. Several bids were received from various shipyards around the world, but no Canadian companies submitted a bid. Damen, based in the Netherlands, was selected with BC Ferries highlighting the advantages of compatibility and flexibility with its current fleet of conventionally-powered ferries from Damen.  

This agreement with Damen is a design-build, fixed-priced contract that provides BC Ferries with substantial guarantees related to delivery dates, performance criteria, cost certainty, and quality construction. The vessels will be built in Romania. Damen also has an agreement with Point Hope Shipyards in Victoria to provide technical and warranty support for the new vessels, ensuring repair and maintenance activities will be performed in British Columbia.

BC Ferries reports it will also initiate corresponding electrical upgrades for shore-based rapid charging at the four terminals on the routes which will connect Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island (two vessels) and Campbell River and Quadra Island (two vessels). 

The shoreside charging equipment will also be supplied by Damen with the necessary upgrades being completed in time for the delivery of the ships. Damen highlights that it will be the fourth time it has provided the shore charging capabilities, with the first also being in Canada, in 2021, to support two hybrid Damen ferries delivered to the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario. The company has also supplied charging for projects in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Dordrecht, the Netherlands.