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Norwegian Delegation Tours Wash. Ferry To See Plans For Hybrid-Electric Conversion

Bellamy Pailthorp
Norway's ambassador to the United States, Kore Aas, with Wash State Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar and State Ferries Director Amy Scarton. The diesel engine behind them is to be replaced with batteries.

Gov. Jay Inslee wants Washington’s maritime industry to be the most sustainable in the world. And Seattle’s strong ties with Norway are proving useful. A delegation of experts is visiting this week to share information on electric-powered ferries and autonomous ships.

Norway launched its first electric car ferry in 2015 and has forged ahead with many other sustainable transportation projects.  It was also the first developed country to ratify the Paris Climate accord.  

Washington State Ferries are a major source of carbon pollution in Puget Sound. The state has plans to turn three of the boats into hybrids.

Inslee spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Port of Seattle and thanked the Norwegian delegation for their leadership and help.

“I’m proud of Washington for virtually everything except that my ferry fleet is a major contributor to pollutants in Puget Sound. It’s only like five to ten percent of the traffic but it’s like 50 or 60 percent of the emissions,” Inslee said.

The governor says he is committed to seeing through a plan to first convert the state’s three Jumbo Mark II ferries into hybrids, by replacing huge diesel engines with electric batteries.  

The delegation boarded the MV Tacoma on its run from Seattle to Bainbridge Island to see the engine room and the shaft where new batteries will be installed to replace huge diesel engines.

Norway’s experts might find future markets for their technologies by cooperating. But right now, they’re mostly giving advice. Their ambassador to the U.S., Kåre Aas , says it’s important to reach out.

“Norway’s a small country, but I would say that we are a strong advocate on climate issues and the environment and that is why we want to partner with as many as possible. And that’s why the state of Washington is so, so important,” he said.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to