Casco Bay Island Transit District to Receive Nearly $4 Million in Funding for Hybrid Propulsion System

Casco Bay Island Transit District (Casco Bay Lines) will receive nearly $4 million in funding, including a $3.2 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), for the use of an innovative, low-emission propulsion system to power their new vessel that will soon be under construction. The funding means that Casco Bay Lines will be one of the first public passenger ferry systems in the United States to fully utilize diesel-electric hybrid propulsion and quick-charging technology.

Earlier this year, Casco Bay Lines applied for $3.2 million in funding to procure the technology through the FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant program (49 U.S.C. 5307(h)) which provides competitive funding for projects that support passenger ferry systems in urbanized areas. Casco Bay Lines was one of only twelve projects across the nation awarded funds, and FTA is awarding a total of $47.5 million dollars.

Casco Bay Lines will also receive $750,000 through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program to go towards various components of the project. Casco Bay Lines will work with the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) to assess efficiency data and do additional testing and reporting on the hybrid engine and battery charging systems for use by others in the maritime industry.

Casco Bay Lines maintains a fleet of five vessels to fulfill its mission of operating safe, dependable and reliable passenger, vehicle and freight service year-round to six unbridged islands in Casco Bay. Typically, passenger vessels have a “useful life” of approximately 30 years. While they can still be utilized safely beyond that point, repairs and maintenance become prohibitively expensive. After identifying the need to replace the Machigonne II, the passenger and vehicle ferry currently servicing Peaks Island, Casco Bay Lines began the process of updating the fleet. In 2018, Casco Bay Lines obtained a $6 million grant from FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program to help fund the construction of the vessel.

As part of the vessel design process, Casco Bay Lines’ staff and Board of Directors became interested in pursuing a 900-kWh diesel electric hybrid propulsion system for the new vessel in order to utilize innovative battery technology in place of a conventional diesel mechanical propulsion system over the 30-year lifespan of the vessel. Not only would this technology eliminate up to 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, the propulsion system would dramatically improve the rider and neighbor experience by significantly reducing exhaust fumes and eliminating excessive engine noise and vibrations found on existing vessels.

“We have been working for several years to update our aging fleet with a new vessel to service Peaks Island. As we considered design options, it was abundantly clear to all stakeholders that a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system offered significant advantages over a conventional system,” said Hank Berg, General Manager of Casco Bay Lines. “Together, this funding allows us to move forward. This is an incredible opportunity for CBITD, our riders, and Casco Bay to realize the benefits of this innovative technology and, perhaps, serve as a model for adapting this technology across other transit applications.”

The project was supported by U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, Maine Department of Transportation, City of Portland, PACTS (MPO) Policy Committee, Greater Portland Council of Governments, Maine Clean Communities, Friends of Casco Bay and the Island Institute.

“This project aligns with federal, state and local goals of modernizing our transit systems and reducing our climate impact. We’re extremely grateful for the steadfast support of all our partners in the region who enthusiastically supported us,” added Berg.

The Casco Bay Island Transit District Board of Directors approved preliminary design plans for the vessel last month. Design details will be determined during this final design phase of the project before construction of the new vessel begins. More information is available at