Building an environmentally friendly ferry fleet

David Mott takes a look at some of the major orders for hybrid, dual-fuel ferries

Building an environmentally friendly ferry fleet
Irish Ferries' new US$161millino cruise-ferry will be delivered by Flensburger in May 2018

By David Mott |

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

In the dash to meet environmental regulations and reduce emissions, the majority of ferry owners have opted to retrofit existing vessels with engines capable of operating on both conventional diesel fuel and LNG, or build new hybrid vessels.

Canada’s BC Ferries, for example, has contracted Remontowa in Gdansk, Poland to convert two of its Spirit Class ferries to dual-fuel. Remontowa is also building BC Ferries’ first dual-fuel newbuilds – Salish Eagle, Salish Orca and Salish Raven – which will be delivered between 2016 and 2017 and are expected to remain in service for 40 years.

The Polish yard has also been mentioned as a possibility to build two dual-fuel ro-pax ferries worth more than €100 million for Polferries in a move designed to boost Polish shipbuilding. A letter of intent was signed by Polferries in the presence of Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. An alternative would be a consortium of shipyards.

This May, Scandlines launched Berlin, the first of two battery hybrid ferries that were first ordered at P+S Wertfen in Germany in 2009, but extensively rebuilt and completed at Fayard in Denmark when the former went bankrupt. “I think we were right to stick to our guns,” Soren Poulsgaard Jensen, chief executive of Scandlines told ICFR. A second ship, Copenhagen, is due later this year.

Swedish operator Stena Line, which has previously trialled the merits of methanol on the grounds of handling and supply, has ordered four ro-pax ferries – with an option for another four – at China’s AVC Wehai shipyard. The first ro-pax to be ordered in China by a Western owner, Stena’s new vessels will be able to take 1,000 passengers and have 3,000 lane metres for freight vehicles, making them 50% bigger than today’s ro-pax vessels. To be delivered in 2019-2020, the vessels are said to be gas-ready and capable of taking either LNG or methanol fuel.

Speaking to ICFR, Stena’s managing director Carl-Johan Hagman said that the new ships will incorporate emission reductions and better efficiency derived from research done in-house by Stena’s own staff. “They will be the most fuel-efficient ships in the world and set a new industry standard in operational performance, emissions and competitiveness,” he explained.

Elsewhere, Norwegian transport conglomerate Fjord1, which carries 24 million people annually, has ordered two emission-free electric ferries from Tersan shipyard in Istanbul, Turkey. Due to start service on 1 January 2018, the double-ended ferries have been developed by Siemens in conjunction with the Fjellstrand yard and their design is based on Ampere, Norway’s first electric ferry, which began service in 2015. It is expected that the 349-passenger vessels, which will also take 120 cars, will be capable of operating for several hours without charging their batteries. However, Anda and Lote, the ports at either end of the intended route, will have fast-charging electric connections.

UK-based operator Wightlink, which carries passengers and cars across the Solent between the Isle of Wight and mainland England, has also embraced electric technology by ordering a new €30 million ferry from Cemre shipyard in Turkey. Equipped with hybrid battery technology, the newbuild is part of Wightlink’s overall £45 million plan to upgrade the route between Fishbourne and Portsmouth and will be slightly larger than the current flagship, St Clare. The vessel will transport more than 1,000 passengers and 178 cars.

Also in the UK, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has outlined a plan to build two ferries as part of a £170 million investment on its main routes from the island’s capital Douglas to Liverpool and Heysham in England, Belfast in Northern Ireland, and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Infrastructure at all four ports will also be improved. Although Steam Packet’s current service agreement expires in 2026, the line’s chief executive Mark Woodward told ICFR that if it reaches a deal for the new contract in 2016, it will bring forward its investment plans. “We would probably start processing the orders in 2017,” he said. “We have a couple of shipyards in mind.”

Not a million miles away, Irish Ferries’ parent company Irish Continental Group has agreed a US$161 million contract for a 1,885-passenger cruise-ferry to be built at the Flensburger shipyard in Germany. Due for delivery in May 2018, the 435-cabin vessel will have capacity for up to 300 passenger cars and 165 freight lorries, and will be built according to ice-class requirements to extend her range. Chief executive Eamonn Rothwell said the vessel marked a vote of confidence in tourism between the UK, Ireland and France.

Cross-Channel operator P&O Ferries is reportedly bringing forward an order for new ferries on its key route between Dover, England and Calais, France. Although the company has yet to confirm or deny plans, the last time it ordered major new vessels for the route was nine years ago.

Major Scandinavian ferry operator, Denmark-based DFDS Seaways, has contracted German shipyard Lloyd Werft to lengthen its vessel Primula Seaways in a tight 31-day project. This will include 12 days to cut the ship and the remaining 19 days to rejoin and repair it. DFDS has also secured options to lengthen two more ferries. Shipyard director Dirk Petersjohann said it was important for Lloyd Werft to regard itself as more than just a ‘house shipyard’ for its new owner, Genting Hong Kong, for whom it will build several major cruise ships over the next few years.

At the same time, DFDS has agreed to bareboat charter two newbuilds from the Siem Group which are being built by Germany’s Flensburger shipyard. Delivery is booked for May and December next year and the ships will be used on North Sea routes where they are expected to increase capacity by 20%. The line’s executive vice president of shipping Peder Gellert said the newbuilds will offer a major capacity improvement, particularly because it’s already using nearly all of its current fleet capacity. The company has had success with seven vessels built by Flensburger between 2004 and 2007, he added.

Danish operator Mols-Linien, meanwhile, has gone much further afield, contracting Australia’s Austal fast ferry yard to build an AUS$100 million, 1,000-passenger aluminium catamaran for its newly won Bornholm routes. Mols-Linien also booked a fast craft with Austal’s rival Incat in Tasmania, Australia some months ago.

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