Fuel efficient ferries would boost range, capacity of AMHS fleet

State transportation officials and the Southeast Conference are partnering to conduct a Low Emission Ferry Research project as the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Works looks ahead toward vessels to replace its aging ferry fleet.

Under consideration are alternative fuel powered, low emission and electric ferries, which could be a game changer for the marine highway system.

“Southeast Conference was formed in 1958 to work with the state of Alaska toward the formation of the Alaska Marine Highway System,” said SEC executive director, Robert Venables. “The success of AMHS is still our passion and priority, and we are excited to continue our partnership with the state to pursue implementation of both the Reshaping Committee recommendations and the opportunities that have emerged in the new federal funding programs. This pilot program is well-timed given Alaska’s need to plan for new vessels to replace the Alaska Marine Highway’s aging fleet!”

Southeast Conference will support the project, which will include a detailed examination of the costs, benefits, and overall technical and financial feasibility of low-emission ferry operations within the AMHS service area. Funding for the research comes from a new program through U.S. Department of Transportation to provide grants for the purchase of electric or low-emitting ferries and for the electrification of existing ferries to reduce emissions.