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First Hydrogen-Powered Ferry in the U.S. Prepares to Begin Service

Sea Change (SWITCH Maritime)

After a year’s delay, the hydrogen-powered ferry Sea Change has arrived in San Francisco and is preparing to begin operations. It will be the first vessel of its kind in the United States, and beginning this spring, it will demonstrate the use of a zero-onboard-emissions fuel in a practical maritime application. 

Sea Change was delivered in August 2021 and fueled for the first time in November 2021, and her owner predicted that her first commercial operations would begin in June 2022. She was towed into San Francisco this month and is on track to begin operation within weeks, once the crew has completed training, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Using 250 kilos of compressed hydrogen for fuel and hydrogen fuel cells to generate power, Sea Change will carry up to 75 passengers at speeds of about 16 knots. She will serve on San Francisco Bay Ferry’s network, which connects the downtown waterfront with Alameda, Oakland, Richmond and Vallejo. 

The vessel’s development was underwritten by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which provided $3 million in funding for R&D, procurement and construction in 2018. With support from the  Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the California Infrastructure Economic Development Bank, the project also qualified for a loan guarantee for a $5 million construction loan from Key Bank. Hydrogen fuel will be provided by West Coast Clean Fuels, a joint venture between Pasha, World Fuel Services and Clean Marine Energy.

A handful of hydrogen-powered ferries are already in limited operation in Japan and Norway, including one vessel powered by a hydrogen-fueled diesel cycle engine. In Belgium, the CMB shipping dynasty has introduced the world’s first hydrogen-powered tug, which began operations last year. 


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