Billy Bishop Airport taps consultants to electrify ferry service

03 December 2019 2 min. read

PortsToronto, the owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, has selected three marine design and engineering consultancies to retrofit the Marilyn Bell I passenger/vehicle ferry with a fully electric propulsion system.

Canal Marine & Industrial, a St. Catharine’s-based marine electrical engineering firm,  developed the winning concept and proposal, and will serve as prime designer. Quebec-based Concept Naval will serve as the project naval architect, while Bedford, Nova Scotia’s E.Y.E. Marine Consultants will provide project implementation services.

The retrofit, expected to be completed by the end of 2020, will turn the Marilyn Bell I into the first 100% electric lithium-ion powered ferry service in Canada. The entire propulsion system will be battery-powered and charged by 100% renewable electricity, according to a release from PortsToronto. The electrified ferry will also run far more quietly, reducing noise in the surrounding community.

The ferry transports passengers, staff and supplies to and from the island airport, as well as providing a transport link for municipal service vehicles to the Toronto Islands.

Billy Bishop Airport taps consultants to electrify ferry service

"This is an important step in the evolution of the marine industry made possible by maturing advancements in energy storage and power and propulsion system design," Shawn Balding, Canal’s commercial director, said.

PortsToronto’s sustainability program in 2018 converted the ferry from diesel to biofuel, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 tonnes last year. The electrification is expected to reduce GHG emissions by 530 tonnes annually.

"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, CEO of 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.”

The electrical retrofit will cost approximately $2.9 million, and will be funded by PortsToronto’s Airport Improvement Fee.

Earlier this year, PortsToronto commissioned a survey which found that 41% of travelers walk, bike, or use transit to get to Billy Bishop Airport.