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A hybrid future for the ferry industry

By 11/11/2022News
  • Ferry industry invests in greener and more comfortable ships
  • A total of 17 new ships will be in service within next 5 years

(10 November 2022) Industry body, Discover Ferries, announces that the UK passenger ferry industry will introduce fuel-efficient, hybrid-powered ferries to reduce carbon emissions and improve passenger experience. Six new ships have already entered service in the past two years 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.

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.

Cutting carbon on the Channel 

P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté

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.

Brittany Ferries’ Saint Malo

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.

Among the most energy efficient vessels in the world, three of Stena Line’s bigger E-flexer ships have already been deployed in the Irish Sea, these are the same model of ships as DFDSCôte D’Opale and Brittany Ferries’ Santoña, Salamanca and Galicia. Stena Estrid, Embla and Edda 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. 

The new Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ship 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%.

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.”

Onboard upgrades for four-legged travel

The investment also improves onboard experiences, to appeal to passengers’ needs and high expectations, strengthening ferries’ position as the most relaxing and comfortable way to travel.

With more space on board and access to fresh air on deck, it has always been easier and more comfortable to take pets away via ferry than by plane or train. With the growing number of pet owners and increasing cost of kennels, the trend for pet-friendly holidays is also expected to rise and operators have improved services accordingly. This year, P&O Ferries opened pet lounges on its cross-Channel services, which have space for pets and their owners to rest and access to an outside exercise area. Stena Line already offers dog kennels on routes to Ireland and Holland and new pet-friendly cabins on routes to Holland. Following requests from regular passengers, the new Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ship, Manxman, will feature two pet lounges. 

Manxman, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

Entry into Service Dates for New Ships

Year Company and ship Route
2020 Brittany Ferries Galicia Portsmouth-Santander and Bilbao
  Stena Line Stena Estrid Dublin-Holyhead
  Stena Line Stena Edda Liverpool-Belfast
2021 Stena Line Stena Embla Liverpool-Belfast
  DFDS Côte D’Opale Dover-France
2022 Brittany Ferries Salamanca Portsmouth-Santander
2023 Brittany Ferries Santoña Portsmouth-Santander and Bilbao
  Caledonian MacBrayne MV Glen Sannox Ardrossan-Isle of Arran
  Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Manxman Heysham-Douglas
  P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté Dover-Calais
  Uber Boat by Thames Clippers Thames river
  Caledonian MacBrayne Glen Sannox Scottish West Coast
2024 Caledonian MacBrayne Hull 802 Scottish West Coast
  Caledonian MacBrayne Isle of Islay
  Condor Ferries Belfast-Bangor
2025 Brittany Ferries Saint Malo Portsmouth-St Malo
  Brittany Ferries Portsmouth-Caen
  Caledonian MacBrayne Isle of Islay
  Caledonian MacBrayne – two new ships Scottish West Coast
2026-27 Wightlink – first electric ship Solent
TBC Isles of Scilly Steamship Group – replacement for Scillonian III and freight ships Gry Maritha and Lyonesse Lady Penzance-St Mary’s