Billy Bishop Airport converting to electric passenger and vehicle ferry

Nov 28 2019, 9:04 am

Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport is taking a greener approach to how it serves its customers by converting its ferry to electric, a move that has yet to be done before in Canada.

PortsToronto, owner and operator of Toronto’s city airport, announced it’s converting its passenger and vehicle ferry, the Marilyn Bell I to electric-power, which will dramatically reduce the ferry’s greenhouse gas emissions and noise impacts.

According to PortsToronto, this upgrade to the ferry will make it the first 100% electric lithium-ion powered ferry in service in Canada.

The vessel’s propulsion system will be entirely powered by battery and fueled by 100% Bullfrog Power renewable electricity, enabling the electric-ferry to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the airport’s ferry operation.

In addition to operating more efficiently and eliminating related air emissions, the retrofitted vessel will build on the airport’s award-winning Noise Management Program, as it will operate far more quietly, dramatically reducing related noise in the surrounding community.

“Converting the Billy Bishop Airport ferry to electric power is a clear indication of how serious we are in our commitment to the environment and maintaining balanced operations with the waterfront community in which we operate,” said Geoffrey Wilson, chief executive officer, PortsToronto.

“We are proud to invest in leading-edge, sustainable transportation infrastructure that will reduce PortsToronto’s overall emissions, which is a significant step toward our organization’s environmental objectives and in support of the Canadian Government’s 2030 emission reduction target.”

PortsToronto said the revamped ferry is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the ferry operations by 530 tonnes, dramatically reducing the airport’s carbon footprint and setting the organization on a clear path toward achieving PortsToronto’s overall emissions target.

Three Canadian companies have been selected to collaborate on completing the ferry’s retrofit, including St. Catharines-based Canal Marine & Industrial Inc. (CANAL), Quebec-based Concept Naval, and Nova Scotia-based E.Y.E marine consultants.

In addition to transporting passengers, airport staff, and supplies to and from the airport, the ferry also connects city service vehicles to the Toronto Islands.

The conversion of the ferry to electric-power is one of Billy Bishop Airport’s key capital projects and will cost approximately $2.9 million and will be paid in full by PortsToronto through the Airport Improvement Fee.

“The retrofitting of the Marilyn Bell I to electric power clearly demonstrates how we can build a clean and efficient transportation system, create good jobs and protect the environment,” said the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport.

“The Government of Canada commends PortsToronto for this initiative that will benefit Toronto communities and reduce our carbon footprint.”

PortsToronto said it first began to green ferry operations in 2018 as part of its sustainability program. The first phase saw the Marilyn Bell I convert from diesel to bio-fuel, which resulted in the reduction of approximately 20 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions last year.

PortsToronto said it anticipates that the ferry’s retrofit will be completed by the end of 2020.