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Environmental Education Organization is Building the 'Ultimate' Hybrid Boat and the
First Vessel to Apply LEED™ Standards

PITTSBURGH, PA – Pittsburgh Voyager, the Pittsburgh-based not-for-profit environmental education organization that operates a fleet of floating classrooms on the region's rivers, announced today that construction of a new "green"-engineered flagship vessel is underway, with delivery expected in June 2006. The 90-ft., 150-passenger boat will include a state-of-the-art hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system, one of the first of its kind in the world to be used for a commercial vessel, according to Pittsburgh Voyager. The design incorporates a wide range of green features and embraces the principles of sustainability, explained Pittsburgh Voyager Board Chair, Howard S. "Chip" Berger.

"We are very proud of this new vessel," said Berger at a morning news conference aboard Discovery, another vessel in Pittsburgh Voyager's fleet. "It is the result of a vision put forth by Pittsburgh Voyager and adopted by generous funders, educational and technology organizations in western Pennsylvania and throughout the country," he commented. "There is really nothing else like it in the country—no other passenger vessel combines this particular technology for this purpose. Now, we need to get everyone in western Pennsylvania excited about the fact that it represents an invaluable asset for all of us to learn more about the environment, particularly our rivers and waterways and how to preserve and protect them for future generations," he concluded.

Officials reported that the cost of the vessel will be paid for with private and public funds through a combined capital and operating campaign that has a total goal of $6 million. A total of $3.7 million has been raised overall, with $1.7 million pledged toward the cost of the vessel, and another $2 million pledged toward the portion of the campaign earmarked for operations, such as expanding and enhancing Pittsburgh Voyager's curriculum and education programs.

"We have been fortunate to have the support of many foundations in western Pennsylvania," said Berger. "The Heinz Endowments is one of the lead funders of the vessel, having made a $1 million grant toward our overall campaign objective. Many other foundations also have stepped forward with significant contributions and we are grateful for their support."

Maxwell King, president of The Heinz Endowments, said the new Pittsburgh Voyager boat is emblematic of the foundation’s efforts to both protect the environment and instill respect for it in young people. "In launching this project, Pittsburgh Voyager is helping us meet several of our goals for quality-of-life improvement in this region. With more than 27,000 watercraft operating on our rivers, this boat, with its hybrid-fuel engines, stands as a model for what can be accomplished in reducing diesel pollution. The teaching program on the relationship of our rivers to the environment will be greatly enhanced. But most important, Voyager will continue to draw young people to our rivers and make them appreciate the tremendous asset they are to the region.”

Pittsburgh Voyager Executive Director Karl Thomas said that, in addition to the Endowments, other major funders for the vessel include: Eden Hall Foundation; Equitable Resources Foundation; The Fisher Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation; The Giant Eagle Foundation; H. J. Heinz Company Foundation; Hillman Foundation; Howard & Nell E. Miller Foundation; The Negley Flinn Charitable Foundation; Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Richard King Mellon Foundation; TRACO; and the Robert and Mary Weisbrod Foundation.

We have set a goal of $750,000 for the public phase," noted Thomas, "that we hope to raise by the end of 2006." He indicated that the campaign will reach out to Pittsburgh Voyager constituents, including families of students and the general public. Several activities are being planned to help raise funds and celebrate the arrival of the new vessel, including an event in April 2006 that will feature ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the late Jacques Cousteau. Pittsburgh Voyager has been utilizing Pittsburgh-based fundraising counseling and public relations firm, A.L. Brourman Associates, Inc. throughout the campaign.

The vessel, which is being built by Freeport Shipbuilding in Freeport, Florida, utilizes innovative technologies and materials that, according to officials, make this a unique vessel of global importance. After evaluating all viable technologies, one of the industry's leading alternative-fuel marine engineering firms, Alion JJMA of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania designed a hybrid dieselelectric propulsion system that is being built by Siemens Energy and Automation of Atlanta, Georgia. This revolutionary propulsion system will allow the new vessel to run on either large battery banks that will be charged while at dock, a diesel-electric power plant fueled by locally sourced bio-diesel, or new electrical sources using a solar array or next generation fuel cells.

The new vessel, Thomas explained, will serve as the flagship for Pittsburgh Voyager's river-based education and public programming. The boat is reported to be one of the first "green" education vessels in the world, meaning that it has been designed and engineered to minimize its impact on the environment and maximize its energy efficiency.

According to officials the vessel was designed using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) process, the global standard for green buildings – another world wide first that adds to Pittsburgh’s reputation in the growing green building movement.

"This boat accomplishes many purposes," said Thomas. "First and foremost, it will allow us to better serve the tens of thousands of students who will come aboard our fleet to learn about our region’s abundant and critical river resources. We are also using it to demonstrate and teach about sustainable systems and the positive impacts a green-engineered boat can have on the environment. Although there are no industry standards for green boat design," he added, "we investigated more than 110 areas from the LEED™ process for buildings and from the latest in alternative propulsion systems, and the resulting vessel incorporates a number of technologies that are new to the marine industry. The boat itself becomes a teaching tool for all students who come aboard—not just about science and the environment, but also about energy, alternative fuels, green design and sustainability.

"The integrated hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system gives us incredible flexibility to run the boat on different power sources, reduce our dependency on petroleum-based fuels, and even upgrade the system when new technologies are commercially viable–something unheard of in the industry," explained Thomas. "The first moment we first push off from the dock under nearly silent battery power with zero emissions, all the hard work will have been worth it. We are also very excited to use and teach about bio-diesel: a low-polluting fuel that can run in almost any standard diesel engine and which can be made from common cooking oils that you might have used in your frying pan for dinner last night."

Numerous partners and consultants have been involved in one or more aspects of the planning, design, engineering, and construction of the vessel, including: DeJong & Lebet of Jacksonville, Florida; Green Building Alliance, Pfaffmann + Associates, Perkins Eastman, Carnegie Mellon University, and Moshier Studio, all of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and John R. Bond & Associates of Panama City, Florida.

In addition to its school science programs, which comprise the majority of its programming, Pittsburgh Voyager also offers summer camps, group education cruises, and a range of other public programming; and its vessels are available to individuals, organizations, and corporations for charter. Schools interested in receiving more information about spring programs should call 412-231-2712 or visit Pittsburgh Voyager's website at for more information.

Pittsburgh voyager green boar deck plans
Pittsburgh voyager green boat profile
Pittsburgh Voyager green boat drawing

Completed Pittsburgh Voyager

After a team of dedicated and skill ship builder completed the amazing work on the new Pittsburgh Voyager, It was a awesome sight to see anywhere in Pittsburgh, PA!

interior Pittsburgh voyager
Pittsburgh boat voyager captain wheel
vessel-1-Pittsburgh Voyager