Ferry operators are moving to cleaner power

European brands are leading the way in green operations as they order dual-fuel and battery ferries
Ferry operators are moving to cleaner power
Color Line's new ferry will eb the world's largest plug-in hybrid ship

By Rebecca Gibson |

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Ferry operators worldwide are being driven to find ways to significantly reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide emissions as the International Maritime Organization’s January 2020 sulphur cap draws nearer. Following the Norwegian Parliament’s decree that all of the country’s UNESCO-protected fjords must be emission-free by 2026 at the latest, Norway has been pioneering the way.

This spring, Turkey’s Tersan Shipyards delivered Torghatten Nord’s two LNG-fuelled vessels, Huftarøy and Samnøy, which serve the Halhjem-Sandvikvåg route in Western Norway. The vessels carry 550 passengers and 180 cars. They follow two identical ferries that were delivered by Norway’s Vard Brevik in late 2018. Vard Brevik is now working on an all-electric, battery-powered ferry with capacity for 199 people and 60 cars, which will be delivered to Boreal in the third quarter of 2019 and begin operating on the Kvanndal-Utne from January 2020.

Elsewhere in Norway, Havyard Ship Technology is constructing five Fjord1 ferries, which will run on an all-electric power and propulsion system from Norwegian Electric Systems and lithium ion battery-based energy storage systems from Corvus. The ferries will operate emission-free on four routes in Norway when they begin service on 1 January 2020.

Meanwhile, Havila Kystruten has ordered four LNG-battery cruise ferries as part of its new contract to serve the route between Bergen and Kirkenes on behalf of Norway’s Ministry of Transport and Communications. Designed by Havyard, two of the 700-passenger newbuilds will be constructed by Spain’s Astillero Hijos de J. Barreras shipyard and two will be completed by Tersan, so all four can be operational by January 2021. Havlia Kystruten is also working with Havyard, SINTEF Ocean and Protech to develop a high-capacity hydrogen energy system that will combine batteries and hydrogen power to enable the ferries to operate emission-free at high speeds for half of the route from 2022. This will be five times longer than any other existing or planned vessel.

“Kystruten will provide the most environmentally friendly voyage along the Norwegian coast from January 2021,” said Arild Myrvoll, CEO of Havila Kystruten.

Norwegian shipyard Ulstein Verft has started final construction work on the world’s largest plug-in hybrid ship – Color Line’s 2,000-passenger, 500-car Color Hybrid – which will operate between Sandefjord, Norway and Strømstad, Sweden from summer 2019. Described by Color Line CEO Trond Kleivdal as a “flagship for the natural environment”, the vessel will be powered by diesel engines from Rolls-Royce and electric batteries from Siemens, which can be recharged via onboard generators or Color Line’s shore power facilities. Color Hybrid will switch to battery power when sailing through Sandefjord to eliminate noise and emissions.

“When Color Line chose Ulstein Verft for the construction of Color Hybrid, the ripple effect for subcontractors and cooperative partners, both regionally and nationally, is very high,” said Gunvor Ulstein, CEO of Ulstein Group.

Other Nordic countries are following Norway’s lead. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, for example, has ordered Iceland’s first electric ferry, which was designed by Polarkonsult and will be delivered by Poland’s Crist S.A. shipyard later this year. The 70-metre ferry, which will carry 550 passengers and 75 cars, will primarily be powered by a large, fast-charging battery pack from ABB as she sails the 13 kilometres between Landeyjahöfn and Westman Island. A diesel-electric generator set will provide back-up in challenging weather conditions.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, Rederi AB Gotland will welcome Thjelvar, the second of two dual-fuel ro-pax ferries from China’s Guangzhou Shipyard International, this summer. The newbuild will join Visborg, primarily relying on LNG fuel to operate between Visby, Gotland and Nynaeshamn and Oscarshamn in mainland Sweden.

This January, Swedish operator Kvarken Link ordered an 800-passenger ferry that will be powered by a dual-fuel system comprising LNG/biogas and batteries from Finnish shipbuilder Rauma Marine Constructions (RMC). The ice-class vessel, which will also have 1,500 lane metres for freight, will navigate the icy waters between Vaasa, Finland and Umeå, Sweden following her spring 2021 delivery.

RMC has also secured its largest newbuild order to date – an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly Tallink Grupp ferry that will transport 2,800 passengers and their vehicles between Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia. The company, which has previously worked on six Tallink Grupp ferries, began the planning phase this spring and will commence construction in 2020 before delivering the vessel in December 2021. RMC estimates that the vessel will take “1,500 person-years” to complete, so it aims to recruit new employees.

“This is an opportunity for us to utilise our longstanding experience and to help steer the ship traffic between Finland and Estonia in a more environmentally friendly direction,” said Jyrki Heinimaa, CEO of RMC.

Dual-fuel ferries are also being built for other European operators. Scotland’s Ferguson Marine Engineering is constructing two for Scottish operator Caledonian Maritime Assets, Poland’s MARS Shipyard & Offshore is working on two for Polferries and Germany’s Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft yard is outfitting Brittany Ferries’ new LNG-powered cruise ferry Honfleur after floating her out of dry dock in December. Plus, Mediterranean operator Baleària has contracted Spain’s Astilleros Armon yard to build the world’s first fast ro-pax ferry with four dual-fuel reciprocating engines, which will primarily run on LNG when she debuts in 2020. Italian shipyard Cantiere Navale Visentini is also building two LNG ferries for Baleària, the first of which will be delivered in the first half of 2019.

Meanwhile, Baltic-based TT-Line and Finland-based Viking Line have joined the growing list of European operators contracting Chinese shipbuilders to construct dual-fuel ferries. The former has tasked Jiangsu Jinling with building its first Green Ship, which will have LNG-powered engines that produce 50% fewer emissions than the previous generation of its ro-pax ferries following her 2022 debut. The latter is awaiting delivery of an ice-class cruise ferry from Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry Co, which will operate on LNG between Turku in Finland, the Åland islands and Stockholm, Sweden from early 2021.

Green fuels are also becoming a popular choice in North America and Canada. Chantier Davie Canada shipyard, for example, is building the last of three LNG-fuelled ferries for Canadian operator Société des traversiers du Québec. BC Ferries, which already operates several dual-fuel ferries, is currently looking for a shipyard to build four electric-hybrid ferries and one natural gas-powered vessel.

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