Elevating the customer experience and sustainability

Interferry’s CEO explains why the association's upcoming conference is a must-attend event

Elevating the customer experience and sustainability
Delegates will be able to join a technical tour at Incat Tasmania’s shipyard in Hobart

By Mike Corrigan |

With the mitigation of climate change being high on our agenda, sustainability will take centre stage at our 47th annual conference, which will be held in Hobart, Tasmania, from 4-8 November 2023. However, as will be highlighted by our distinguished keynote speakers, Australian tourism legend Rob Pennicott and Tourism Australia’s Robert Dougan, several conference sessions and panel debates will also focus on elevating the customer experience. 

The programme is being finalised and, as always, two panels of top ferry leaders will discuss industry trends, challenges and technologies. One of the technology sessions will be dedicated to electrification. As I have pointed out in earlier commentaries in CFR, the ferry industry is at the forefront of adopting new propulsion technologies, including batteries, but it is imperative that shoreside duplicates this effort. In 2022, we launched a global lobbying campaign, urging governments and authorities to prioritise investment in shore power supply infrastructure. To this end, we have partnered with The European Sea Ports Organisation to promote the provision and use of port power grids and sponsored the International Association of Ports and Harbors’ recent shore power submission to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).  

The outcome of IMO’s latest Marine Environment Protection Committee requires us to shift into high gear. In addition to exploring how ferry operators can go electric and use non-carbon-based fuels, speakers at our conference will also discuss how to lessen our environmental impact in other areas. While we can expect a newbuilding spree to comply with more stringent targets set by IMO, we shouldn’t disregard existing vessels that still have an abundance of useful life left in them. Expert panellists will explore retrofitting solutions to avoid making existing vessels obsolete. 

Australia is the cradle of the world’s largest vehicle-carrying high-speed ferries with Hobart being home of Incat Tasmania. During our technical tour on the morning of 8 November, Incat’s Robert Clifford, an Interferry board member, will join managing directors Kim and Craig Clifford to give delegates a truly unique up-close look at the inner workings of the Incat shipyard. They will also see Buquebus’s 130E electric wave-piercing catamaran, the world’s largest zero-emissions lightweight ro-pax ferry, under construction. Some of our European members have told me that a behind-the-scenes tour of the Incat shipyard alone is already good reason to travel all the way to Tasmania. Say no more! 

Conference president is Spirit of Tasmania CEO Bernard Dwyer, who will also give us an in-depth look at the new ‘Spirits’ under construction in Finland. As you can read in an interview with Dwyer on the following page, the company’s newbuilds will radically change the ferry business on the Bass Strait.  For those delegates who would like to experience Spirit of Tasmania, our hosts are offering a complimentary overnight journey from Devonport to Geelong as one of the post-tour options. Also, just across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, Walter Rushbrook of KiwiRail’s Interislander and his team will present its two new rail-enabled ro-pax ferries being built in South Korea.  

As is widely known, Interferry has IMO consultative status with Johan Roos, our director of regulatory affairs, having recently attended the 80th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee. We are concerned about its outcome and the impulsively set targets taking effect at the end of this decade. We were expecting a 20 per cent short-term reduction of well-to-wake greenhouse gas emissions while striving for 30 per cent in 2030. However, like most of our counterparts, we are still coming to terms with the final outcome which provides for a short-term 70 per cent reduction, striving for 80 per cent by 2040 compared to 2008 – with a bottom line to reach net-zero ‘by or around 2050’.  

During the conference, Roos will share the latest regulatory updates. Besides covering the outcomes from the 2023 IMO sessions and our own Operators Policy Committee meetings, he will also inform delegates on our association’s longstanding engagement with domestic ferry safety as we have now turned our attention to Africa following our successful FerrySafe initiative in the Philippines. 

In recent years we successfully managed to significantly grow our membership. While each and every member is highly valued, I’m particularly proud that Corsica Ferries recently joined as a member and participant on the Operators Policy Committee. In spring, we also welcomed Italy’s Liberty Lines as a new member. Liberty Lines’ Alessandro Morace, who is responsible for controlling a fleet of 30 high-speed craft, will talk at our Hobart conference, giving delegates insight into the company’s fleet renewal strategy. Yet another new member is New Zealand’s Fullers360, and the brand’s head of innovations and asset development Liam Dowling will share the plans for a 34-metre hybrid commuter ferry that will service Auckland. 

See you in Hobart! 

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door. 

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