About $8 million in federal grants will get electric, hybrid ferries moving in Baltimore and Annapolis

The Baltimore Harbor Connector is the city's free maritime transit service, currently stopping at four piers. The Baltimore City Department of Transportation has received a $5 million federal grant to upgrade the fleet with new hybrid-electric vessels.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced $384.4 million in grants to states and municipalities looking to upgrade their maritime public transit. Among the 24 projects receiving funding: Baltimore’s Harbor Connector and a proposed electric passenger ferry in Annapolis.

The largest amount of money is earmarked for Alaska, which received nearly $286 million for the Alaska Marine Highway. It serves remote locations throughout the northernmost state. But other projects are designed to get people out of cars and floating on urban waterways like those in Baltimore and Annapolis.


“With these grants, we are improving and expanding ferry service in the communities that rely on waterways the most—often in more rural, remote regions—connecting people to jobs, services and city centers while cutting climate pollution,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in his department’s announcement.

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation will use its $5 million grant to purchase new electric hybrid vessels for the Harbor Connector fleet. “The project will improve service ... for people who use the Harbor Connector in and around the downtown central business district and the Inner Harbor,” according to the federal DOT announcement.


The federal department received 47 applications for the grants, which are funded through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Per DOT regulations, recipients have five years to spend the money and are responsible for funding 10% to 20% of each project.

In Baltimore, the Harbor Connector serves as a free extension of the Charm City Circulator, stopping in Federal Hill, Locust Point, Harbor East and Boston Street in Canton. The boats run between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and operate under a public/private partnership with the same company that runs Water Taxis throughout the city.

In Annapolis, the proposed ferry will operate on a smaller scale, carrying passengers back and forth between City Dock and the 5th Street pier in Eastport, the restaurant district across Spa Creek. The city received $2.9 million to help buy two battery-powered electric vessels, charging equipment and dock improvements. “The fixed-route service will accommodate workers, residents and visitors, support redevelopment of the City Dock area and further the transitioning of the city’s transportation fleet from diesel-powered vehicles to zero-emissions vehicles,” according to the DOT announcement.

“I am so pleased that we pursued this funding because it will help us work toward our goal without having to rely solely on Annapolis taxpayers,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said in a statement.

The City Dock-Eastport ferry has no link to a proposed larger network of ferries that would connect several destinations on the Chesapeake Bay, including Annapolis.

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Buckley has said he was inspired to pursue the small-scale electric ferry after attending the 2021 Annapolis Powerboat show, where he encountered the Swedish startup X Shore. The company still only advertises pleasure boats, however. A spokesperson said X Shore had “no comment” on whether it would apply to supply Annapolis with electric ferries.

The Department of Transportation has awarded Annapolis a nearly $3 million grant toward the purchase of a small electric ferry. Most companies pioneering the electric boating field are Scandinavian. The Swedish-made Candela P-12 shuttle, shown here, could potentially carry passengers between City Dock and Eastport.
- Original Credit: Candela

Scandinavian manufacturers are global leaders in the nascent electric ferry business. Since 2007, ForSea has connected cities in Sweden and Denmark via a battery-powered ferry service. Candela, an X Shore competitor that has been making pleasure boats since 2014, has entered the commercial market with multiple vessels that fit the description of what Buckley has said he is looking for: an electric ferry that could hold about 10 passengers, as well as their bikes. The Candela P-8, for example, is a 12-passenger boat that the company calls “the world’s first foiling water taxi.”

“You have a lot of electric car-makers in America, like Tesla, but no one who makes electric foiling boats,” said Mikeal Mahlberg, head of PR for Candela. Because the boats are raised above the water, powered by fans attached to stilt-like beams, foiling boats can travel much faster on less power than boats with conventional battery-powered engines. They also create very little wake, Mahlberg said.


The company’s first commercial shuttles begin sea trials in Stockholm this spring. Candela has also made deals with the city of Munich and several North American locations that have not yet been announced, Mahlberg said.

He declined to share an exact price for a 12-person shuttle, since prices vary by configuration, but said a nearly $3 million grant would put two Candela shuttles, “well within budget.”

In April 2022, the Annapolis City Council approved budget legislation that allocated $1.5 million for green transportation initiatives, including $330,000 for purchasing an electric boat.

After the city receives the grant, the City Council will consider next steps on the project, Mitchelle Stephenson, a city spokesperson, said.