Developing the fuel for a sustainable future

Sustainability and environmentalism are changing the face of passenger shipping. Poul Woodall tells Elly-Yates-Roberts how DFDS and the wider industry are adapting

Developing the fuel for a sustainable future
A new, more fuel-efficient ferry will replace DFDS’s Calais Seaways on its Channel routes from 2022

Like most other industries, the passenger shipping sector is currently facing a major shift as a result of enhanced environmental awareness. According to the UN, global concentrations of greenhouse gases have been steadily increasing in recent years. In order to avoid a climate catastrophe, countries and organisations must reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“This is why we are working to reduce our impact,” says Poul Woodall, director of environmental and sustainability at DFDS. “The biggest challenge we currently face is reducing these harmful emissions.”

The Danish shipping company is already operating in line with many of the industry’s stringent regulations to reduce its impact.

“We have had no issues with implementing the IMO’s 0.5% global sulphur cap in January 2020,” says Woodall. “In fact, two thirds of our fleet already sail within the Sulphur Emission Control Areas which have been highly regulated since 2015, so we have welcomed the new restrictions.”

However, Woodall knows that more must be done, especially as customers are becoming increasingly conscious of their own environmental impacts.

“We are steadily getting more and more enquiries from our passengers about the carbon footprint of their travels,” he says. “However, there is no single accepted standard for making such calculations so there is always a risk that data will be misinterpreted, particularly when attempting to make comparisons with other modes of transport. We have found that it is best to just be transparent.”

Woodall feels that the most important and exciting step for the industry will be the discovery or creation of a new and better fuel.

“Batteries and fuel cells are good for short journeys, but they would not be able to provide the power needed for ocean voyages,” he says. “The technology is not yet mature enough to carry out full-scale commercial deployment on our ships, but we are engaged in a number of pilot projects to develop it further.

“LNG is also useful for the time being but, as a fossil fuel, it won’t survive past 2050. The perfect fuel will require significant investments from players across the industry, and perhaps beyond.” Despite the difficulties, Woodall believes the IMO is doing its best to help the industry sail into a cleaner, greener future.

“It is very active in working with shipping operators to find sustainable and affordable ways to keep ships in the water,” he explains. “Shipping is a global industry which means that policies must be made at this level, not at a regional or national level, and this is exactly what is happening.”

While the fuel of the future may still be a work in progress, DFDS is taking every step to be kinder to the environment in other ways.

“This is a continuous effort, so we are always looking for new ways to reduce our environmental impact,” says Woodall. “These include reducing plastic onboard our ferries, offering incentives for passengers using their own reusable items onboard, and carbon offsetting.”

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts
01 July 2020

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