A hydrogen-fuelled vessel will begin commercial services in the United States for the first time after the US Coast Guard approved Switch Maritime’s Sea Change to begin trial operations. 

After receiving a Certificate of Inspection, the zero-emissions vessel will run a six-month service under the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) before being moved to a more permanent route. 

Pace Ralli, CEO of Switch, said: “This COI represents the culmination of years of close collaboration with the US Coast Guard and a significant milestone for the maritime industry, demonstrating the viability of carbon-neutral vessels.” 

“This is not the finish line, but just a starting point from which to build many more” he added. 

The 75-passenger capacity vessel has been in the works since Switch was founded in 2018 and is the first of a series of hydrogen fuel cell-powered ferries being developed by the company. 

The demonstration service will operate under WETA’s San Francisco Bay Ferry brand and is backed by a public-private partnership that includes notable names such as United, the Golden State Warriors, Blue & Gold fleet, and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District. 

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Switch’s Sea Change project is also partially funded by a $3m grant from the California Air Resources Board which remains a partner for the pilot scheme. 

Last year, the manufacturing company also raised $10m in a Series A funding round that will support its development of larger hydrogen ferries capable of carrying 150, 300 and 450 passengers.