PCNC Welcomes Red and White Fleet & Its Fuel Cell Ferry Project November 17th

By Stas Margaronis

A new zero-emission fuel cell driven electric ferry is proposed for San Francisco Bay!

Thanks to the Red and White Fleet, Propeller Club of Northern California members will be hearing about this exciting new marine technology project at the PCNC luncheon on Thursday, November 17th at Scott’s Seafood, Oakland.

The two speakers will be: Red and White Fleet CEO, Tom Escher and Joe Pratt, Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories:

Thomas C. Escher serves as the President, CEO and Chairman of the Red and White Fleet. The company was founded by Tom’s grandfather, Thomas Crowley in 1892, making Red and White Fleet the oldest continuing Bay cruise and sightseeing company on San Francisco Bay.  Tom began his maritime career as a sweeper, and has lived and worked in Asia and Europe. In 1997, Tom purchased 100% of the Red and White Fleet from other family members. Currently, Tom is a Director of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, the Port of San Francisco’s Maritime Commerce Advisory Committee, Fisherman’s and Seamen’s Memorial Chapel and the San Francisco National Maritime Park Association. He has served as a Trustee of Menlo College, Board member of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, Director/Treasurer of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, was on the Market Street Railway Advisory Board and a Board member of the U.S. Travel Association – National Council of Attractions.

Dr. Joe Pratt is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California-Irvine at the National Fuel Cell Research Center. He has been involved in hydrogen and fuel cell research for nearly 15 years, and at Sandia he conducts research, development, and deployment activities to enable successful transitioning of hydrogen and fuel cell technology to commercially-viable products. His projects involve applying hydrogen and fuel cells in aircraft, in ports, on maritime vessels, for generators, construction equipment, material handling equipment and portable devices.

Background: Last year, the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) asked Sandia to examine the feasibility of implementing a zero emission, high speed passenger ferry.  The now-concluded SF-BREEZE project examined the technical, regulatory, and economic aspects of such a ferry powered solely by hydrogen fuel cells and its associated hydrogen fueling infrastructure for operating within the San Francisco Bay.  In conjunction with a naval architect, a realistic, feasible vessel design meeting all performance specifications was produced. Collaboration with and evaluation by both the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping validated the regulatory acceptance of the vessel. The supply of liquid hydrogen to the vessel was examined and viable sites were found. Industrial gas companies were consulted and provided technically viable fueling facility designs. The current design of the zero-emission Red and White Fleet ferry has a cost premium compared to a conventional diesel ferry. Cost reduction strategies specific to the vessel and leverage of those expected in the fuel cell electric vehicle market may result in future cost parity.  This presentation will provide an overview of these findings and opportunity for further discussion.