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First Hydrogen-Fueled Vessel in the U.S. Gets Coast Guard Approval to Enter Commercial Service

The Sea Change uses hydrogen fuel cells to power all-electric motors for transit distances up to 300 nautical miles.

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SWITCH Maritime

SWITCH Maritime, a developer of zero-emission maritime vessels, was presented with the signed Certificate of Inspection (COI) by Captain Taylor Q. Lam, the US Coast Guard Sector San Francisco commander and Captain of the Port, for its flagship hydrogen ferry, the Sea Change. The ceremony took place last Friday afternoon onboard the bow of the vessel, along with several members of the US Coast Guard and other project stakeholders.

“This COI represents the culmination of years of close collaboration with the US Coast Guard and a significant milestone for the maritime industry, demonstrating the viability of carbon-neutral vessels. We are immensely grateful for the support from the US Coast Guard and all our partners along the path to completion,” said Pace Ralli, CEO of SWITCH. “This is not the finish line, but just a starting point from which to build many more.”

With the COI, the vessel is now able to commence commercial operation for zero-emission public ferry service. The Sea Change uses hydrogen fuel cells to power all-electric motors for transit distances up to 300 nautical miles and speeds up to 15 knots. The rapidly-evolving technology provides similar operational capabilities and ranges to diesel-powered vessels, and eliminates the need for shoreside charging infrastructure required by battery-only vessels.

Following a formal launch event in June, the Sea Change will be operated in a six-month pilot service by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (“WETA”), thanks to a public-private sponsorship that includes: Chevron Corporation; United; the Golden State Warriors; California Air Resources Board; Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District; and Blue & Gold Fleet. After the initial demonstration period, SWITCH will put the vessel into a more permanent ferry route. Alongside the Sea Change, SWITCH is actively advancing new designs for larger and faster ferries for SF Bay, and other major ferry markets in the US and internationally.

SWITCH aims to accelerate the adoption of net-zero vessels by bearing the regulatory and construction risks for the operators, and offering existing operators the ability to lease the new vessels after completion – a form of the ‘hardware-as-a-service’ model increasingly being utilized to accelerate the energy transition of hard to abate industrial sectors. The SWITCH solutions are flexible and tailored for vessel operators needing to comply with emissions regulations, providing a streamlined path to achieving a carbon-neutral fleet over time.

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