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Industry Body Discover Ferries Highlights Hybrid Future for Ferry Sector

19th November 2022
A Greener ferry future among them, Salamanca the first Liquified Powered Gas (LNG) powered passenger ferry to operate between Ireland and mainland Europe. The Brittany Ferries cruiseferry promising lower emissions, this month entered service on the Rosslare-Bilbao route providing a more luxurious travel experience on the Ireland-Spain route.
A Greener ferry future among them, Salamanca the first Liquified Powered Gas (LNG) powered passenger ferry to operate between Ireland and mainland Europe. The Brittany Ferries cruiseferry promising lower emissions, this month entered service on the Rosslare-Bilbao route providing a more luxurious travel experience on the Ireland-Spain route. Credit: Rosslare Europort-twitter

Ferry industry body in the UK, Discover Ferries announces that the British passenger ferry industry will introduce fuel-efficient, hybrid-powered ferries to reduce carbon emissions and improve the passenger experience.

In the past two years, six new ships have already entered service and a further 11 will join fleets by 2027.

The continued investment in new ships and improved port facilities underlines the industry’s strategy to cater for an increasing number of passengers, provide high quality, efficient and green transport at good value.

Abby Penlington, director of Discover Ferries commented: “This industry-wide investment is great news for the millions of travellers who value comfort, space and value for money but are also mindful of their environmental impact. The new vessels are important milestones in our journey towards a net-zero industry which operates across 80 passenger ferry routes from the British Isles.”

A hybrid now for an electric future

A zero-emissions Belfast commuter service is due to launch in 2024. Designed to fly above the water and use 90% less energy than conventional ferries, the ship is being developed by the Belfast Maritime Consortium with Condor Ferries, which will also inform plans for a future electric ferry for the Channel Islands.

Hybrid electric ferries are providing a stepping-stone towards zero emissions. Two new P&O Ferries ships, launching in 2023, are designed to run on battery power for carbon neutral sailings once charging systems are installed in the ports.

Hybrid vessels are in development for routes operated by Brittany Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Travel, Caledonian MacBrayne and London’s Uber Boat by Thames Clippers – which is set to launch the UK’s first high speed hybrid ferries in 2023. The vessels can either run on fuel/biofuel or electricity or a combination of the two. As well as fewer emissions, they are significantly quieter and offer a smoother ride – great for passengers, residents near ports and marine life.

Wightlink already operates a hybrid electric ship; Victoria of Wight is the greenest ferry to serve the Isle of Wight. In a bid to reduce carbon by a further 7,500 tonnes per year, it is now aiming to launch the Solent’s first all-electric freight and passenger ferry within the next five years. Similarly, all-electric vessels are in development by Caledonian MacBrayne for the West Coast of Scotland.

Shore power ready, both Wightlink and Brittany Ferries’ plan for future vessels to be plugged in at port to recharge. The ferry operator commitment coincides with Portsmouth International Port’s investment in solar generation, which completes early 2023. It is the first UK port to install solar canopies; 2,600 panels sit above Brittany Ferries’ car lanes providing shade for the vehicles while generating power. Together with a 1.5 megawatt per hour battery to store unused power, the renewable energy project could contribute up to 98% of the port’s electricity consumption in ideal conditions.

Increasing capacity in the British Isles and Irish Sea

In 2019 more than 37 million passenger journeys were made by ferry to the British Isles and Ireland, France, Spain and The Netherlands. The importance of comfort, value for money, and the desire to avoid airport queues, baggage fees and car rental costs is expected to increase the number of ferry travellers. To meet both passenger and freight demand, operators are investing in larger, more efficient ships.

Stena Line is developing its 'next generation of E-flexer' vessels which will be dual-fuel methanol hybrids. The ferry operator is working with engine manufacturers to convert the vessels as well as develop the port infrastructure to support them. The newly converted ships will operate on key routes from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and from Belfast to Cairnryan.

Among the most energy efficient vessels in the world, three of Stena Line’s E-flexer ships have already been deployed in the Irish Sea. They are the Stena Estrid, Embla and Edda which have boosted Stena Line’s capacity on the Irish Sea by a third and are 30% more energy efficient than the vessels they replaced. Recently added silicon coverings on the hulls have improved fuel efficiency further.

These are the same model of ships as DFDS’ Côte D’Opale and Brittany Ferries’ trio the (Salamanca on Ireland-Spain route), Santoña and Galicia. 

The new Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ferry (Manxman) can carry approximately 50% more passengers than the current ferry and features more cabins and a greatly enhanced passenger experience. Furthermore, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group is working towards replacing its passenger ferry and freight ships. The new passenger ferry, Scillonian IV, would accommodate up to 600 passengers, increasing capacity by more than 20%.

Cutting carbon on the English Channel

Efforts are underway to reduce emissions on the world’s busiest shipping lane. Next year, P&O Ferries will launch the largest and most sustainable ships to sail between Dover and France, P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté. The two new double-ender ferries allow for boarding and disembarkation at both ends to aid fast turn-around on the busy Dover-Calais service. With a capacity for 1,500 passengers each, they will improve economic and environmental efficiencies.

The Port of Dover itself is targeting net zero emissions by 2025 and was recently awarded funding as part of the Green Corridor Short Straits (GCSS) consortium. This includes French ports Calais and Dunkirk, ferry operators Irish Ferries, DFDS and P&O Ferries among other partners. The feasibility study will take steps to establish the first zero-carbon trade route in the UK.

Brittany Ferries, which operates services on the western Channel to France and Spain, will launch Santoña, a new liquified natural gas (LNG) -fuelled ferry, in the Spring. Sister to the Salamanca, which entered service this year, the ships reduce CO2 output by approximately 25% and drastically reduces emissions that affect air quality. Fuel agnostic, they can also run on even cleaner fuels such as bio-LNG and e-methane when infrastructure is in place.

Penlington adds: “As well as improved efficiency and a switch to cleaner fuels and hybrid propulsion, the new ships boast new onboard facilities and upgraded interiors to offer passengers and, increasingly, their pets a comfortable journey in a truly modern setting. Together with more sustainable engines, the improved onboard experience ensures future generations of ferry travellers, further cementing our industry’s future.”

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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