SF Bay ferry fleet floats toward renewable diesel

All Bay Area ferryboats that serve commuters and tourists will soon switch from regular diesel to renewable diesel fuel, San Francisco officials announced Thursday at Pier 35.

Switching the entire fleet of ferries that serve San Francisco’s waterfront to renewable diesel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 22,000 metric tons per year, according to officials.

The Red and White Fleet has already made the switch to renewable diesel last year, and the Fire Department changed over to renewable diesel this year on its fireboats.

A San Francisco Fire Department fire ferry puts on a show by spraying water into the air at a press conference on renewable diesel at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, April 12, 2018.

To celebrate the announcement, a fireboat spewed water in the air behind city officials.

Other operators such as the Golden Gate Ferry, Hornblower Cruises, Blue and Gold and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority will make the transition next year.

The Mayor’s Office said The Port’s fuel dock at Hyde Street Harbor will transition this year.

Debbie Raphael, Director of the San Francisco Department of Environment, points to a jar of diesel made from dinosaur bones (left) and a jar of renewable diesel (right) at a press conference on renewable diesel at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, April 12, 2018.

Debbie Raphael, director of the Department of Environment, said The City’s transit fleet is one of the cleanest in the nation:

“Part of that cleanliness has to do with fuel switching where we are getting off of dirty diesel and replacing it with renewable fuels.”

Renewable diesel comes from vegetable oils, animal fats and waste oils, according to the Department of Environment.

The idea to switch fuels for the ferries came from late Mayor Ed Lee, said Port Director Elaine Forbes.

In 2016, Lee and Forbes were on a boat ride to tour one of the proposed sites for the Mission Bay Ferry Landing when he made the connection that while The City’s fleet can switch to using renewable diesel, the ferries can as well.

Forbes said:

“He had a big vision for this waterfront and for growth in our water transportation and linked this vision of environmental stewardship.”

Tom Escher, owner of ferry line Blue and White Fleet, speaks at a press conference on renewable diesel at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, April 12, 2018.

Tom Escher, owner and operator of Red and White Fleet, said since switching to renewable diesel, they have had no operational problems:

“This is our next step in our evolution to zero pollution.”

Mayor Mark Farrell said when the entire Bay Area fleet makes the switch to renewable, the region will become the first in the nation to achieve this goal:

“We will be the first in the country to lead on the environment.”