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What you need to know about the new electric ferries coming to Kingston

The Amherst Islander II (right) and the Wolfe Islander IV are on their way towards Picton Terminals and are headed towards Ontario waters from Quebec on Thursday, Oct.7, 2021. Photo via Damen.com, from when the vessels departed Romania in the last week of August 2021.

Catch a glimpse of the Wolfe Islander IV as it passes through Kingston on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, weather pending

Two new electric ferries, at a combined cost of $94 million, are set to replace the current ferries in Kingston in the Spring of 2022. The ferries — the Wolfe Islander IV and the Amherst Islander II — will serve those travelling to and from Wolfe Island and Amherst Island, respectively. Lori Alarie, Communications Coordinator for the Regional Services and Relationships Office for the Ministry of Transportation, answers our questions about the new vessels.

Where are the electric ferries located at the moment? When will it pass by Kingston and the approximate arrival time in Picton?

The Wolfe Islander IV is currently in Montreal and, weather pending, it is currently on pace to pass through Kingston on Saturday, however, this may change, including whether the vessel will navigate the south side in American waters instead of north towards Kingston. Unfortunately, a firm estimated time of arrival (ETA) cannot be provided due to weather (fog, winds, etc.).

Please note you can track the location of the Wolfe Islander IV using the public marine traffic website that provides real-time position information.

Visit MarineTraffic: Global Ship Tracking Intelligence | AIS Marine Traffic here: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/shipid:6473120/zoom:10

Tell us more about the electric ferries: the manufacturer, the size and colour, the cost, how many cars and people it will hold compared to the current ferries we have right now?

The vessels were built by Damen Shipyards in Galati, Romania. The Wolfe Islander IV is 98 metres long; it is white with black accents and holds up to 399 passengers and 85 vehicles. The Amherst Islander II is 71 metres long; it is white with black accents and holds up to 299 passengers and 45 cars. Total cost for both vessels was $94 million.

The current Wolfe Islander III holds 294 passengers and 55 vehicles; while the Frontenac II (which the Amherst Islander II will replace) holds 276 passengers and 35 vehicles.

Why is it important to switch to e-ferries? What are its advantages over the conventional ferries?

In full electric mode, there are no emissions, which greatly reduces the carbon footprint. In addition, there are fewer moving parts, less vibrations and significantly reduced noise for both passengers and ferry staff.

Will passengers notice anything different on an electric ferry while on board (compared to a conventional ferry)?

The ferry is anticipated to have a much quieter experience for the passengers and with the reduced vibrations, the ride is likely to be smoother overall.

How will it be charged? How long will a charge last and how often does it need to be charged?

Once the shore-based infrastructure is complete, the vessel will be charged via a charging arm that will connect to the vessel each time the vessel docks. The transfer of energy takes approximately 7-9 minutes and can be safely done while loading and unloading the vessel. The batteries onboard are able to last several return trips without any additional charging; however, the current setup maintains an 80 per cent charge at all times.

Who is funding the purchase of the e-ferries and why?

The government of Ontario is funding 70 per cent of the two new ferries and the Federal government is contributing 30 per cent of the overall costs.

How will passengers be impacted? Will there be a cost difference to ride one?

There will be a separate loading ramp for walk-on passengers which will create a safer environment for the users. In addition, there is an upgraded passenger cabin for a comfortable ride. The ferry to Wolfe Island has no cost and at this time there are no plans to implement a fare to use the Wolfe Islander IV.

Where will it be docked and when will it be in operation in Kingston?

The Wolfe Islander IV will be moored in the Picton Terminals for training and is expected to go into service Spring 2022.

The Wolfe Islander IV in Trois-Rivières, Que. on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, on its way through Kingston to Picton Terminals, where it will remain until it goes into use in spring 2022. Photo via Picton Terminals.

Picton Terminal’s Port Manager Graham Seymour said in a phone interview that “we’re super excited about the opportunity to help out and provide a safe berth for (the electric ferries). (We) couldn’t be happier to be a part of the team.”

It is currently unknown whether the ferries will pass through Kingston on the Wolfe Island or Kingston side of the St. Lawrence River. Kingstonist will update this article as more information becomes available.

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