Ferry service to and from Wolfe and Amherst islands to be an 'electric' experience

·4 min read

Oct. 19—KINGSTON, Ontario — Two electric ferries, which its manufacturer call the first of their kind, are scheduled to begin service in the spring in Canadian waters in northeastern Lake Ontario.

The ferries will serve Wolfe Island and Amherst Island.

The 321 1/2 -foot Wolfe Islander IV and its sister ship, the 223-foot Amherst Islander II, were built by Damen Shipyards, based in Gorinchem, Netherlands. Damen says they are North America's first all-electric ferries.

They left Damen's shipyard in Galati, Romania, on Aug. 26. The two fully electric road ferries were purchased by the Ministry of Transportation, Canada. They arrived in September.

The Wolfe Islander IV holds up to 399 passengers and 85 vehicles. The Amherst Islander II holds up to 299 passengers and 45 cars. Amherst Island is located in Lake Ontario west of Kingston. It's about an hour drive and ferry ride from Kingston. Loyalist Township runs ferry service between Millhaven and Amherst Island on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

The ministry declined a Times' phone interview request, but responded to e-mailed questions about the new ferries.

Both the Wolfe Islander IV and Amherst Islander II will be moored in the Picton Terminals, located in Prince Edward County in northeast Lake Ontario, for trials and extensive crew training. They are expected to go into service in the spring of 2022. "In full electric mode, there are no emissions which greatly reduces the carbon footprint," the Ministry said. "In addition, there are fewer moving parts, less vibrations and significantly reduced noise for both passengers and ferry staff. The ferries are anticipated to have a much quieter experience for the passengers and with the reduced vibrations, the ride is likely to be smoother overall."

The ferries were transported via Damen semi-submersible heavy transport vessel. From the Port of Quebec, where they arrived on Sept. 26, the vessels traveled under their own power to Picton Terminals, with the Wolfe Islander IV arriving Oct. 9. The Amherst Islander II arrived on Sunday.

According to a Damen news release, the delivery of the vessels marks the completion of the first of the two stages of the project. The second stage, now underway, involves a program in which Damen is working with the Ontario government to install the facilities that will enable the vessels to use shore power supplied via integrated shore charging and mooring systems. This will enable them to recharge their batteries while loading and unloading between the short crossings to and from the islands. This involves not only the installation of the necessary transmission infrastructure at each of the four ferry docks, but also the complete rebuild of the docks to accommodate the new vessels plus the onshore electrical equipment.

Both of the open-deck vessels are equipped to be fully-electric, but also have twin diesel generators installed to allow hybrid and full diesel propulsion for maximum redundancy.

The ferries, Damen says, also feature "1B Ice class hulls and 1A Ice class azimuth thrusters" allowing them to be fully operational down to minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Damen, the ferries will begin operations in hybrid mode using the diesel generators to supply electricity to the motors.

"This integrated project is the first of its kind and one that we hope will demonstrate that fully-electric ferries of this size are a viable proposition," Leo Postma, Damen Area Director Sales Americas, said in the news release.

The company added that Ontario's new ferries bring extra capacity and will make crossings faster as well as greener for the one million passengers and 500,000 vehicles which travel annually between Wolfe Island and Kingston, and the 270,000 passengers and 130,000 vehicles which travel to and from Amherst Island each year.

The Wolfe Island to Kingston ferry route, and back, is popular with Americans who take advantage of Horne's Ferry, the service between Cape Vincent and Wolfe Island. The ferry unloads at Point Alexander operated by Canada Border Services Agency.

Horne's Ferry resumed its trips to Wolfe Island in early September, a service it suspended in 2019 because of the pandemic.

The U.S. plans to reopen the U.S.-Canadian border to nonessential vaccinated travelers by early November.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting