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  • Writer's pictureMarcello Pellizzari

Switzerland’s first zero emissions liner sails the waters of Lake Lugano

LUGANO By 2035 the Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano will reconvert its entire fleet: it will start with the Motonave Ceresio, the first zero-emission liner in Switzerland - «We are pioneers» says Agostino Ferrazzini

By Marcello Pelizzari 15 settembre 2021

Envision an elegant, silent, clean boat. One that respects the water and the environment. In short, one that doesn’t pollute. A boat with zero emissions, yes. Is that possible? Yes, it is. The ambitious project has a name: Venti35. The boat, of course, is the Motonave Ceresio 1931. A historical boat that has sailed the waters of Lake Lugano for over ninety years and will continue to do so. And which will continue to do so. Due to a real renovation process and, to make a long story short, to an electric engine. The official inauguration took place this morning at the Conza Pavilion, in front of the authorities. «I’m very excited» enthused the president of the Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano SNL Agostino Ferrazzini.

Needless to say, this is a historic first. The Ceresio, in fact, will be the first Swiss lake equipped with a zero-emission boat (entirely designed and built in Ticino). And a special thought, through the vice president of SNL Enea Petrini, was addressed to the mayor Marco Borradori who passed away in August. Because «Marco strongly believed in navigation». This investment, not only related to the first motor vessel but to the restructuring of the entire fleet, is 25 million francs. A part is guaranteed by the Federal Office of Energy and another part by the City of Lugano. But support also came on the technical front, with AIL and Baumüller.

Slow and fast charging «Venti35’s goal is to convert the entire fleet by 2035,« Ferrazzini explained further. «Today is a historic day for SNL, for the city of Lugano, for Ticino and for all Swiss shipping companies.» The 90-year-old motor vessel was powered by a diesel engine. Now it is 100% electric. Nothing has changed, on the contrary: «We have managed to optimize the speed». About 6.5 tons of batteries are installed on the boat. Recharge times? Three to four hours in slow mode, at the shipyard, about twenty minutes in fast mode directly at the dock.

«Forerunners of electric» «We are the pioneers in the transition from diesel to electric,« assured Ferrazzini. In 2016, SNL had already converted a small patrol boat. Now, in order to keep up with the 2035 goal, «teamwork will be needed.» For example, with the installation of charging stations on land. The motor vessel Ceresio will travel a genuine green line that will connect Lugano to San Rocco and Gandria. « This must be a project of all, which gives benefits to all.» And SNL, given the premise, hopes to encourage redevelopment across the border as well. Many have collaborated in the restructuring, starting with the German company Baumüller, represented at the presentation by CEO Andreas Baumüller. «Lugano - said Ferrazzini - is a candidate as a green destination. It is also a candidate as a center of expertise. Hence the decision to open an academy to train pilots, sailors, engineers and technicians. SNL is also a founding member of Swiss Green Lakes. «We’ve gone from a doodle on a piece of paper to a boat that goes even faster than before. And that doesn’t pollute.»

«The first step» Claudio Zali, director of the Department of Spatial Planning, applauded SNL’s turnaround and stressed the importance of the conversion. «As a cantonal authority, we can only praise such initiatives. The Venti35 project is an opportunity to revitalize Ticino’s lakes, both in terms of tourism and as public transport. Navigation can be integrated with rail and road transport. We like to assume that within five to ten years there will be a reconversion already of the most important vessels.»

«This initiative will give prestige to the Ceresio and Ticino» said Filippo Lombardi, municipal and head of the Department of Territorial Development of the City of Lugano. «Venti35 will be setting a standard, not only in Switzerland.» The relationship between the City and SNL has strengthened during Borradori’s reign. «But we still have a lot to do together,« Lombardi stressed. «Electrifying is one of the tools to decarbonize. We know how important it is to reduce CO2 emissions. Lugano and its lake are the first step.»

Here is the license The Federal Office of Transport, expressed satisfaction with the initiative, to the tune of «we need pioneers,« as Barbla Etter put it. «I am sure that this project will encourage other companies to follow SNL’s example. We wish the motor vessel Ceresio a serene and safe journey, always with a hand of water under the keel and the batteries well charged.» Then, the navigation license that will allow the Ceresio to enter into service was handed over.

An excited Andreas Baumüller said he was honored to be in Lugano to inaugurate the Ceresio boat. «We are SNL’s partner in the Venti35 project. The goal is to electrify the entire fleet by 2035.» Baumüller, as a company, is a global leader in the industry. «We produce and develop optimal solutions. We have already completed several projects like this one.» Baumüller, in particular, has developed quick refills directly at the docks. Recharges that facilitate the use of the Ceresio boat, evidently.

«An example not only for Switzerland» Yes, the future is electric. Andrea Prati of Aziende Industriali of Lugano knows it well. The man, in short, who energizes the entire project. «I salute and thank SNL for showing that they are not stopping. An important stone has been laid. Each of us can make a great contribution in the realization of climate policy goals. I thank SNL for getting us involved. The project will bring great benefit. To the waters, for starters.

Marisa Drew, Chief Sustainability Officer at Credit Suisse, praised SNL’s initiative. «I’m happy to partner with such forward-thinking municipalities and companies. It’s important to be there; I hope Venti35 sets an example not only for other Swiss lakes but for the world.» From a financial standpoint, Drew continued, investing in the green economy - paraphrasing Al Gore - is a huge opportunity. «Those who ignore climate change are exposing themselves to serious risks.» Every year, Drew pointed out, «we need to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 10%.» And one area Credit Suisse likes to invest in is transportation. «It’s necessary for the planet.» The director of the Department of Finance and Economy, Christian Vitta, in the conclusion emphasized an aspect. Indeed, a key word: «Innovation». And again: «This is a future-oriented project. There is a lot of technology behind it, it is the way forward». The future has already arrived. And Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano is riding it like a wave. Silent but very powerful.


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