This rendering shows the ferry that would replace the Machigonne II. Courtesy Elliott Bay Design Group

A new climate-friendly ferry will begin transporting Peaks Island residents and visitors between downtown Portland and the island, possibly as soon as next year.

The Casco Bay Island Transit District announced Tuesday that its board of directors authorized construction of the passenger/car ferry, which will replace the aging Machigonne II, built in 1987.

The ferry, including design and construction, will cost more than $16 million.

The new ferry, which will be powered by a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system, can eliminate up to 800 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. It replaces the conventional diesel propulsion system used on the Machigonne II, and Casco Bay Lines will be one of the first passenger ferry lines in the country to utilize the technology.

In addition, Casco Bay Lines said the new ferry, which the board will name once it’s built, will improve passengers’ travel experience by reducing exhaust fumes, excessive engine noise and vibrations. A one-way trip will still take about 17 minutes.

“This new vessel will transport vehicles, freight and hundreds of thousands of passengers between the mainland and Peaks Island every year for the next 30 years,” Hank Berg, general manager of Casco Bay Lines, said in a statement. “Our customers increasingly view the sustainability of our operations and stewardship of Casco Bay as important components of our service, in addition to reliability, safety and comfort. The hybrid-electric propulsion system will significantly reduce carbon emissions over the life of the vessel and provide a clear environmental benefit for our region.”


The Casco Bay Lines board authorized construction of the new ferry at its Feb. 25 meeting. The transit district said it will fund design and construction with $16.3 million secured over the past three years. The Federal Transit Administration contributed about $12.7 million and the Maine Department of Transportation provided $1.2 million.

The ferry line hired Elliot Bay Design Group, a national consulting firm based in Seattle, to design the vessel, after its Vessel Advisory Committee held more than 14 meetings to solicit public input. ABB, a global technology company, has been hired to develop the new propulsion system.

The board accepted the vessel’s design in February and authorized soliciting bids for construction. Casco Bay Lines wants to have the ferry in service by the end of 2022.

The ferry will carry a maximum of 499 passengers on outbound routes, and up to 599 passengers on return trips. It can carry up to 15 vehicles per trip, compared to the 10 that Machigonne II averages. The vessel will be designed for side-loading at the ferry terminal on Commercial Street and will feature modern fixtures and finishes. While berthed in Portland, the vessel’s battery will be charged and it will operate on batteries whenever possible.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation, the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and Future, the Maine Department of Transportation, the City of Portland, Friends of Casco Bay, the Island Institute and the Greater Portland Council of Governments have all expressed support for the project for its impact on climate change.

Casco Bay Island Transit District ferries transport more than one million passengers, 35,000 vehicles and over 500,000 pieces of freight each year. They also deliver mail and ferry students who attend mainland schools in Portland.

More information is available at

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