City of Fredrikstad to test autonomous ferry

Fredrikstad municipality is considering reopening a local ferry route temporarily to test the new autonomous ferry developed at Hydrolift Smart City Ferries.

-We are looking into the possibility of collaborating with Hydrolift. They are developing a super modern ferry which may be operated autonomously, says Runar Helgese, Traffic Manager in Fredrikstad municipality

He is now investigating the possibility of temporarily reopening the former ferry connection between Bekkhus on Kråkerøy and Vaterland to test once local entrepreneur and industrial designer Bård Eker has a pilot ready.

Hydrolift Smart City Ferries

Hydrolift Smart City Ferries is a part of the well-known premium boat manufacturer Hydrolift, and is the owner, Bård Eker’s new mobility venture. The ambition is to have 200 autonomous, zero emission ferries in operation by 2029, to be used in public transportation.

Managing Director Ketil Solvik-Olsen believes a pilot may be on the water next year – likely during the autumn of 2022, initially with a skipper on board. – We are developing the technology platform and the vessel in parallell, but the vessel will be in place faster than the autonomous technology. There are a lot of things that need to be in place, not least in the regulatory side, says Solvik-Olsen. He is confident the development efforts by Hydrolift and Eker Design will pay off.

Modular design

-We believe we have found a good approach. Many companies are mainly focused on monetizing technology. We are taking a wider approach, developing an integrated mobility solution. Our modular design and manufacturing will significantly reduce costs, Technology will be gradually implemented and serve to reduce costs even further. We believe this approach gives us shorter time to market than for those who focus more exclusively on technology, says Solvik Olsen.

Hydrolift Smart City Ferries and the municipality are not yet committed to a formal collaboration.

– There´s good momentum behind our discussions and we have a letter of intent in place. This cooperation is all about the desire to help each other. We wish to contribute to better and more cost effective solutions, while Fredrikstad municipality helps us to better understand the market.

The ferries of the future

Eker Design performed a feasibility study for the future of the Fredrikstad city ferries. The same year, the local politicians resolved to set up a two year-project to determine how the ferries of the future could be developed together with the business community.

-The politicians wanted to consider the possibilities of local manufacturing of ferry vessels. Our discussions with Hydrolift Smart City Ferries builds on these considerations, says Helgesen.

According to Helgesen, there are three main reasons why Fredrikstad is considering a collaboration to test the ferries of the future: The first two are to help private companies in Fredrikstad in local job creation and serve the public by looking at opportunities to develop the ferry service.

– And of course we want to be involved in developing new ferry equipment and see what opportunities we can have in the future, says Helgesen.

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