Lisbon is poised to join the growing list of cities with an all-electric ferry service. Cegonha Branca, the first of its ten new passenger vessels, has been delivered by shipbuilder Astilleros Gondan and will soon begin plying the waters of Lisbon’s Tagus River. According to Portugal’s Observador, she will first require fiberglass hull repairs due to damage in shipping.
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The ten vessels in the series were purchased in order to serve three key routes linking Lisbon to Cacilhas, Seixal and Montijo on the south bank of the Tagus river. The design has a relatively high service speed, making 16 knots in everyday operation. Replacing the ten diesel ferries on the Tagus river with all-electric powered vessels would remove about 6,500 tons of CO2 emissions every year, equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions generated by about 1,400 passenger cars.
“Delivering the first of these 10 ferries is an important milestone for us, and it is a joy to see her on the water in Lisbon. We very much look forward to delivering the other nine,” said Antonio Pacheco, Director of GRP Division, Astilleros Gondán, in a statement Thursday.
The ferry series is the subject of a minor controversy in Portugal. In 2020, operator Transtejo placed an order for ten electric ferries and only one set of batteries, planning to raise funds for the other nine battery sets at a later point. Lisbon’s Court of Auditors recently determined that the order may have been illegal, likening it to “buying a car without an engine,” and Transtejo’s administrator has resigned.
According to the Maritime Battery Forum, there are nearly 600 battery-powered vessels in operation today, with nearly 200 more on order. Ferries operate on short, well-defined routes with frequent pierside stops, making their duty cycle ideally suited to battery-electric propulsion.