Green Swiss Lakes: Focus on sustainability in maritime transport

Green Swiss Lakes – focus on sustainability in maritime transport

A 90-year-old ship with a new engine is charting the course for the electrification of maritime transport on Lake Lugano. The project's founders dream of getting other navigation companies on board with the idea.

Passenger and freight transport without environmentally harmful emissions. The concept is definitely going places. It's already a reality in the air and on the ground and, for the first time in Switzerland, on the water too. Since September 2021, the MNE Ceresio 1931 has been transporting passengers on its regular route on Lake Lugano between Lugano, Gandria, and San Rocco.

Some 31 meters long, the boat has a transport capacity of up to 240 passengers. While it was built back in 1931, it has the latest and greatest engine technology. The boat operates on two high-torque 225 kW electric engines, powered by lithium-ion batteries weighing a total of six tons. This enables the "Ceresio" to reach a maximum speed of 24 km/h with zero emissions and low noise. The facelifted "e-Ceresio" is thus faster than the version with the old steam and diesel engines.

Green Swiss Lakes as a vision

The "Ceresio" is just the beginning of an ambitious project called Venti35, launched by the Società di Navigazione del Lago di Lugano (SNL; Lake Lugano Navigation Company). The goal is to have all of SNL's 13 water buses converted to electric engines by 2035. A budget of CHF 24 million has been earmarked for this purpose. Venti35's project partners are SNL, AIL (Aziende Industriali di Lugano; power plant for the city of Lugano), the Nürnberger Baumüller Group (technical infrastructure, electric engines) and the city of Lugano.

But that's not all: The project's founders dream of getting other navigation companies on board with electrification for other lakes in Switzerland and neighboring countries. The Green Swiss Lakes association was founded exclusively for the purpose of spreading the word about the electric engine concept to interested parties.

The members of Green Swiss Lakes thus far include SNL, financial services provider Copernicus (Lugano), communications and media agency Furrerhugi, law firm Bär & Karrer, and Credit Suisse, which is contributing its sustainability expertise as an ESG (environmental, social, and governance) advisor for the association. The aim is to attract new members from other regions of Switzerland and take the idea nationwide.

A clear-cut objective: Mobility with zero emissions

Many parties are involved in bringing Venti35 to life. Alongside project lead SNL, the Nürnberger Baumüller Group, as the leading manufacturer of electric automation and engine systems, is delivering and installing the engine, the batteries, and the charging infrastructure.

There are also local, regional, and national authorities helping to get the sustainability project off the ground: the city of Lugano with its energy company AIL (Aziende Industriali di Lugano), the cantonal government with the department for construction, environment, and transport (Dipartimento del territorio), and the Federal Office of Energy is covering half of the financing (the city of Lugano is responsible for the other half) to convert the SNL fleet. All hands are on deck as the (environmental) goal is undisputed: Zero emissions for SNL's boats by 2035.

Sustainability is definitely a priority for Lugano. It's no surprise, then, that the Green Swiss Lakes association now hopes to pursue this objective throughout Switzerland and bring other navigation companies on board.

Investors want to play a part

Through its involvement in Green Swiss Lakes, Credit Suisse is providing a specific example of sustainability and influence on investment decisions based on ESG criteria.

By doing so, Credit Suisse is establishing itself in a specific sustainability project that, while initially local in nature, already offers environmental and economic advantages for the Ticino region. These include, but are not limited to, investments, infrastructure activities, as well as the creation of new job profiles and corresponding educational institutions.

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