New hybrid ferry is a faster, more environmentally friendly way to ship goods

For goods to get from Connecticut to Long Island usually means enduring standstill traffic on I-95 and the Long Island Expressway. 

But now, thanks to Bob and Marilyn Kunkel’s hybrid cargo vessel the Captain Ben Moore, the trip can be made far faster and without any harmful emissions that could damage the environment.

“Our Holy Grail is to be able to actually remove truck trailers,” said Robert Kunkel. 

The Kunkels own artisanal grocery Harbor Harvest in Norwalk, Connecticut, along with a soon-to-be-opened store and distribution center of the same name in Huntington. The pair have been working to be a clean energy freight ferry a reality for years. 

“The former Governor of Connecticut said we have two highway systems in Connecticut, one is a parking lot and the other is a museum. You’ll see today on the voyage that we’re looking at a third highway on the water that has no congestion and because of the hybrid and electric operation, there’s no emissions,” Kunkel said.

A one-way trip on the ferry takes roughly an hour and twenty minutes, a fraction of the three-plus hour trip for trucks. The ferry, a 65-foot catamaran, runs on chargeable batteries with a backup generator that kicks in when power gets low. When docked it charges similarly to an electric car and the propulsion system was designed by BAE Systems, the company behind many of the nation’s electric bus and vehicle systems. 

The Kunkel are hoping to build a fleet of similar boats and already have a second one in the planning phase. The company has received a $1.8M grant from the federal government to build it. 

"Anything that's moving from Connecticut through into the New York area is a target for us," Kunkel said.