Halifax Greenlights Electric Ferry Service to Meet Demand of Growth, Climate

To aid in transit into and out of downtown Halifax, the governments of Canada, Nova Scotia and the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) have resolved to build the Mill Cove Ferry Service between Halifax and Bedford, Nova Scotia. 

The project, which has received $258 million in funding, will include five high-speed electric ferries, a ferry terminal and a maintenance facility.

According to Mervin David, Manager of Ferry Operations, the Mill Cove Ferry project was initiated to meet the demands that the growth of the HRM presented.

“There’s been a history of looking at options to help with the challenges and the demands of a growing city,” said David. “Part of that is the rapid transit network, which is being proposed and worked on. Part of that is four bus routes, and the ferry route is also part of that network.”

The ferry route is supposed to take around 18 minutes, with services every 15 minutes during rush hour. The new vessels will have a capacity between 150–200 passengers, which David said is designed to offset highway congestion in the HRM. According to Halifax Transit, the vessels are projected to be able to travel over 20 knots, opposed to the current ferries which travel at about eight knots.

“There’s a lot of commuter traffic coming in from the outside of the core into downtown Halifax every day. Based on that, a lot of our services are designed according to those needs. There is a huge demand along the Bedford highway, with restrictions in the road real estate available,” said David. “Our target is increasing public transit by 30 per cent and trying to limit trips made by private vehicles to a certain extent.”

The focus behind making the new ferry service carbon neutral goes back to a 2020 resolution by the HRM to develop their own climate response initiative known as HalifACT. Part of the HalifACT plan, according to David, is for the municipal operation in the HRM to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint. 

“The entire city wants to bring down its carbon footprint. All new buildings, all new projects — they’re trying to make them net-zero,” said David. “That was one of the key things. How can we make it a green, sustainable service?”

Included in the new terminal will be a bridge spanning the CN rail line in Bedford to connect vehicles and pedestrians with the Mill Cove terminal. David said the current timeline for the Mill Cove Ferry project will see the new transit service operational by 2027–2028. He said that the Mill Cove ferry will be one piece of a larger puzzle as the Halifax Municipal Region looks towards a cleaner, greener future.

“It’s not a silver bullet. It’s part of a strategy to utilize the natural value of the harbour and utilizing what we have and building it out while keeping climate impact and long-term sustainability in mind.”

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