Billy Bishop Airport Marilyn Bell I is now Canada’s First Truly Zero Emission, Lithium-Ion Electric Ferry

Toronto (December 15, 2021) – The Marilyn Bell I ferry, which connects passengers, vehicles and supplies to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, is now the first electric ferry service in Canada to be powered by a zero-emission, lithium-ion power and propulsion system containing no diesel components.
 
PortsToronto, owners and operators of Billy Bishop Airport, today celebrated the return to service of the Marilyn Bell I following its conversion to 100 per cent electric power. In operation since 2010, and upgraded to bio-diesel fuel in 2018, the vessel’s diesel generators and engines were removed in 2021 to make way for a new electric power and propulsion system and a suite of lithium-ion batteries fueled by 100 per cent Bullfrog Power renewable electricity.
 
Powered entirely by electricity from clean wind and solar sources provided by Bullfrog Power, the retrofitted Marilyn Bell I has eliminated greenhouse gas emissions from the ferry operation, reducing the airport’s direct emissions by approximately 530 tonnes per year. In addition to operating more efficiently and eliminating related air emissions, the retrofitted vessel builds on the airport’s award-winning Noise Management Program, as it will operate far more quietly, dramatically reducing related noise in the surrounding community.
 
 
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PortsToronto CEO Geoffrey Wilson was joined by Project Manager Jelena Ognjanovic (centre), and MP Kevin Vuong, Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, Stephanie Dexter, representative of the ferry’s namesake Marilyn Bell, MPP Chris Glover, and PortsToronto Board Members Hellen Siwanowicz and Darin Deschamps (left to right) in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of this remarkable project.
 
Quotes
“PortsToronto has made continuous and significant investment to make Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport cleaner, greener and quieter in an effort to create balance between our commercial operations and the surrounding community. With the conversion of the Marilyn Bell to electric power we are ticking all of the boxes in our vision for this airport and its operations. In removing all fuel components of the Marilyn Bell and replacing with lithium-ion batteries we will eliminate all GHG emissions related to the operation of the ferry – Clean. We will power these lithium-ion batteries with 100% Bullfrog Power – Green. And we will significantly reduce the noise associated with ferry operations – Quiet.”
Geoffrey Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, PortsToronto  

“I would like to congratulate PortsToronto, owners and operators of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, on this Canadian-first achievement in providing clean and green transportation that will reduce pollution and bring us all closer to our climate change targets. The conversion of the Marilyn Bell ferry to 100 per cent electric power is an example of the effort and innovation that can be realized to reduce the impact of transportation infrastructure on the environment, and the leadership position that is necessary to make a difference in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable operations.”
Hon. Minister Alghabra, federal Minister of Transportation

 “The conversion of the Marilyn Bell ferry to fully electric power is an important milestone for Billy Bishop Airport. This made-in-Canada retrofit will help ensure this critical transportation link between downtown Toronto and the island is clean, efficient, and reliable for years to come.”
Hon. Caroline Mulroney, Ontario Minister of Transportation

"We want Toronto and all our great partners to continue to lead the way when it comes to addressing the impacts of climate change. The new zero emission electric ferry at Billy Bishop airport is a great initiative and a first of its kind in Canada. I want to thank PortsToronto for making this possible and look forward to seeing the new Marilyn Bell on our waterfront."
John Tory, Mayor, City of Toronto  

“Toronto’s waterfront has long been a driving force for environmental action, innovation, and leadership. The introduction of the first zero-emissions ferry in Canada to be powered entirely by electricity from wind and solar sources, is an example of this essential work. Congratulations to PortsToronto on this important achievement.”
Councillor Joe Cressy, Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York  

“I am thrilled to see the progression and excitement on the new electric ferry at Billy Bishop Airport, and the attention brought forward to environmental impacts occurring and different methods of living to bring restoration of change to the ways of living in the spaces we share. It is a key element to incorporate the thoughts and reflections of our actions always within the sense of communal accumulative causal impacts. When we see the accommodations criteria not only benefit human but also the life sources in the ecosystems, the overall benefits have succeeded in our actions and pursuit to change the ways in which we see sustainable living and being.”
Councillor Cathie Jamieson, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation  

Fast Facts
  • The Marilyn Bell I returned to service at Billy Bishop Airport on December 15 following a 20-week retrofit, which saw its diesel generators and engines removed to make space for a zero-emission, lithium-ion power and propulsion system.
  • The vessel’s propulsion system is powered by battery and fueled by 100 per cent Bullfrog Power renewable electricity, eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its operation and reducing Billy Bishop Airport’s direct GHG emissions by 530 tonnes per year.
  • In compliance with PortsToronto’s Sustainable Procurement Policy, three Canadian companies that share PortsToronto’s vision for sustainable operations were selected for this project. As developers of the winning concept and proposal, St. Catharines-based leaders in marine electrical engineering Canal Marine & Industrial Inc. (CANAL) were the prime designers for this project. The project’s naval architect is Concept Naval, Quebec-based naval architects and marine engineers, recognized for their innovative and customized solutions in Canada's shipbuilding industry. PortsToronto also engaged Nova Scotia-based E.Y.E marine consultants to assist with the implementation of the project.
  • The airport’s ferry operation not only transports passengers, airport staff and essential supplies to and from Billy Bishop Airport, but also serves as a vital link for City of Toronto service vehicles to gain access to the Toronto Islands. In 2021, the airport’s ferry service enabled Toronto Island residents to access supplies during the pandemic, and students to attend school when ice cover on the harbour restricted regular access. 
  • The conversion of the airport ferry to electric-power is one of Billy Bishop Airport’s key capital projects and cost approximately $3.8 million. This cost was paid in full by PortsToronto through the Airport Improvement Fee.
  • The Marilyn Bell I is named for the Canadian sports icon who was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario, and later the English Channel and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Assets
About Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
Offering service to more than 20 cities in Canada and the U.S., with connection opportunities to more than 80 international destinations via our airlines’ networks, Billy Bishop Airport is an important international gateway and a key driver to Toronto’s economy, generating more than $470 million in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year and supporting 4,740 jobs, including 2,080 directly associated with the airport operations. Billy Bishop Airport is renowned for its unique travel experience, efficiency and customer service and has won a series of passenger-driven awards.
 
About PortsToronto
For more than 100 years PortsToronto has worked with its partners at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to enhance the economic growth of the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. PortsToronto owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which welcomed approximately 2.8 million passengers in 2019; the Outer Harbour Marina, one of Canada's largest freshwater marinas; and, Marine Terminal 52, which provides transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the Port of Toronto. PortsToronto is committed to fostering strong, healthy and sustainable communities and has invested more than $12 million since 2009 in charitable initiatives and environmental programs that benefit communities along Toronto's waterfront and beyond. PortsToronto operates in accordance with the Canada Marine Act and is guided by a nine-member board with representation from all three levels of government.
 
 
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Media Contact:
Jessica Pellerin
Manager, Media Relations and Public Affairs
PortsToronto
Cell: (647) 298-0585
E-mail: jpellerin@portstoronto.com