Forward-thinking environmentalists

Søren Poulsgaard Jensen explains to Rebecca Gibson how Scandlines is reducing its environmental footprint by investing in hybrid ferries and scrubbers

Forward-thinking environmentalists
Berlin and Copenhagen both offer improved catering outlets (Image: Michael Dietz)
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Ferry operators are scrambling to invest in new vessels and replace propulsion systems as the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2020 deadline for ships to use fuel with less than 0.5% sulphur content creeps ever closer. However, Scandlines CEO Søren Poulsgaard Jensen isn’t concerned. His company is already well ahead of many other ferry operators when it comes to meeting and exceeding environmental requirements.

Between 2012 and 2015, Scandlines invested around €25 million (US$26.5 million) to implement its award-winning innovative hybrid propulsion systems and closed-loop exhaust gas cleaning solutions (scrubbers) onboard four ferries operating on the Fehmarn Belt between Puttgarden, Germany and Rødby, Denmark. The hybrid propulsion systems onboard Deutschland, Prinsesse Benedikte, Prins Richard and Schleswig-Holstein combine traditional diesel power with batteries, while the closed-loop scrubbers reduce sulphur emissions by 90%.

“Collectively, the four diesel-electric ferries offer close to 34,000 departures annually, with each ship sailing for around 6,200 hours and berthing in port for almost 2,560 hours per year,” Jensen comments. “This means that the ferries’ engines were operating for 17,000-30,000 hours per year and we decided that making them more efficient would lead to better results for Scandlines. We’re always on the lookout for new ways to optimise our operations and reduce costs where possible.”

Equipping the four double-ended, double-decked ferries, which have operated on the route since 1997, also helped Scandlines establish itself as an innovative and forward-thinking environmentally friendly ferry operator.

“Scandlines was the first ferry operator in the world to make large-scale use of onboard hybrid systems, which store excess energy in batteries,” claims Jensen. “By using our hybrid propulsion system, we have reduced carbon dioxide emissions from the four ferries operating on the Puttgarden-Rødby route by up to 15%. In addition to enabling us to comply with the IMO’s sulphur limit that came into effect on 1 January 2015, the hybrid systems have also optimised engine efficiency.”

Scandlines took its commitment to green cruising a step further in 2016 by introducing two new 1,300-passenger hybrid ferries on the route between Rostock in Germany and Gedser in Denmark. Like the Puttgarden-Rødby ferries, both newbuilds have hybrid propulsion systems and closed-loop scrubbers. The ferries were initially ordered at P+S Werften in Stralsund, Germany in 2009, but Scandlines cancelled the order due to concerns about construction and delivery. The shipyard went bankrupt in August 2012. In July 2014, Scandlines struck a new deal with Danish shipbuilding company and long-term partner Fayard and requested an extensive rebuild to reduce each vessel’s weight by more than 1,000gt. This was achieved by completely removing the upper deck, gutting the second upper deck, and moving the bridge to the top deck.

“The Rostock-Gedser route offers the largest growth potential because it has Central and Eastern European exposure, but the ferries were more than 30 years old so we wanted to introduce tailor-built ferries that would increase capacity, offer an improved customer experience and help us to optimise operating costs,” explains Jensen. “The project was launched more than six years ago and successfully reached its final conclusion in 2016 after a long and eventful journey.”

Berlin commenced operations out of Rostock on 23 May, replacing Prins Joachim, which was transferred to European Seaways on 24 May for service in Greece. Copenhagen started service alongside her sister on 21 December. A third vessel, Kronprins Frederik, acts as a reserve ferry for both the Rostock-Gedser and Puttgarden-Rødby routes to safeguard capacity.

“Now that Berlin and Copenhagen are in service, our oldest route – which dates back more than a century – operates two of the world’s most modern passenger and freight ferries,” says Jensen, adding that the cost of the vessels totalled €280 million (US$297 million).

The company also rebuilt Gedser’s facilities to accommodate the new ferries, and has started using a new berth built specifically for Berlin and Copenhagen in Rostock. One berth will also be reconfigured in Puttgarden.

Building on these investments, Scandlines ultimately aims to develop an onboard propulsion system that produces no emissions at all.

“We’ve earmarked investment funds of around €100 million (US$106 million) to be able to run an entirely electric-based fleet on the Puttgarden-Rødby route, completely eliminating all emissions,” Jensen says. “Later, we’ll also convert the ferries on the Rostock-Gedser route to plug-in hybrid ferries that can recharge their onboard batteries in port and run emission-free.”

Although improving environmental sustainability is a primary objective for Scandlines, the ferry line is also focused on continually improving the onboard experience for its customers.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve invested heavily in modernising and improving the look and feel of the catering and retail outlets onboard our vessels,” says Jensen. “For example, the passenger areas onboard three of the ferries on the Puttgarden-Rødby route have been completely refurbished recently. Both Deutschland and Schleswig-Holstein were renovated in 2013-2014, while Prinsesse Benedikte was revitalised in spring/summer 2015.”

Jensen notes that the new ferries and onboard enhancements have all helped to improve Scandlines’ financial performance.

“We’re very happy to see that we’ve been able to meet our expectations for double-digit growth rates in the first few months of both Berlin and Copenhagen entering service,” he comments. “Copenhagen and Berlin, plus our expanded port facilities in Rostock and Gedser, have secured Scandlines’ position as the primary operator in the central transport corridor between both Germany and Denmark, and Scandinavia and Europe.”

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
04 April 2017

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