As West Seattle’s new Water Taxi tests the waters, King County says the fleet’s gone green

(Photo by Carolyn Newman)

With three days to go until the ceremony dedicating West Seattle’s new Water Taxi, the M/V Doc Maynard, it’s already out and about testing the waters following its arrival in Elliott Bay at the end of last week. And the county says the entire Water Taxi fleet is or has already gone green:

What could be better than commuting across Puget Sound in a water taxi and bypassing all that traffic? Now there’s yet another reason to appreciate the ride – in addition to fighting congestion, these King County water taxis are doing their part to combat greenhouse gas emissions by switching to the use of biodiesel fuel.

“Using homegrown biodiesel, our water taxis have some of the cleanest-burning engines around,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “The use of biodiesel on the newest member of our fleet, the Sally Fox, will reduce particulates in the air and prevent more than 140 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.”

In line with the biodiesel initiative, the County’s Marine Division has earned membership in the Passenger Vessel Association’s Green WATERS Program – a national volunteer effort that encourages environmental responsibility and action to reduce the environmental impacts of marine operations.

The Sally Fox, soon to be joined by a second new vessel, the Doc Maynard, has a host of green features that include:

· Operating on a locally-sourced 10 percent biodiesel blend, which reduces our dependence on fossil fuel.
· Engines that operate more cleanly and emit less particulate matter.
· The addition of high-efficiency heating systems, LED lights, and recycling stations to help reduce waste.
· Expanded capacity for bicycles. The new vessels can accommodate 26 bicycles on every trip.

When the County’s third vessel, The Spirit of Kingston, has its annual maintenance this fall, fuel tanks will be cleaned readying the vessel to burn biodiesel.

4 Replies to "As West Seattle's new Water Taxi tests the waters, King County says the fleet's gone green"

  • JayDee September 15, 2015 (7:02 pm)

    It seems the diesel they use is 10% biodiesel. Would that mean 90% non-biodiesel? Better than 100% non-biodiesel but not that green. The rest of the improvements are real and can be trumpeted justifiably. Why not 100% biodiesel is what I would ask? Not possible given the local market?

  • chemist September 15, 2015 (8:01 pm)

    100% biodiesel would be significantly more expensive and might have less predictable or have undesirable burn properties. At 10% biodiesel they can still make the announcement and not have costs be prohibitive. I think the metro fleet worked its way up from 5% to 20% around 2007 but I’m not sure they’re still using that.

  • K'lo September 15, 2015 (9:43 pm)

    It seems WSF tried to go total biodiesel at one time, only to discover that the engines got too gummed up resulting in using a 10% mix. Could be Metro learned a lesson from them about the correct mix for the best result whe it comes to vehicles/vessels that ply the waters of Puget Sound.
    (cold water and diesel don’t play well together in other words)

  • Born on Alki 59 September 16, 2015 (2:04 pm)

    10% Biodiesel (B10)is the maximum allowed by most marine engine manufacturers to retain any engine component warranty.
    In 2004, WSF conducted a pilot test of biodiesel on the Fauntleroy-Southworth-Vashon ferry route. The three vessels on this route used a mixture of 20 percent vegetable oil biodiesel and 80 percent low-sulfur petroleum diesel during the pilot test, burning a total of 710,000 gallons of B20 over a four-month period. The cost difference between low-sulfur diesel and the biodiesel blend was funded by Seattle City Light’s Greenhouse Gas Mitigation program. Shortly after the first fueling, all three vessels in the test reported severe clogging in the fuel filters and oil purifiers. Engineers initially thought the clogging was related to start-up. Symptoms continued, however, and after consulting with national fuel industry experts, distributors, and suppliers, WSF suspended the use of b-20 biodiesel on the vessels. Many folks complained about the giant cloud of white/grey smoke these produced when leaving the docks, not to mention it smelled like French fries.
    So a 100% biodiesel powered vessel would likely have passengers swimming home.

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