Joining forces for a more sustainable future

Interferry CEO Mike Corrigan describes the trade association’s partnership and dialogue strategy

Joining forces for a more sustainable future


Several Interferry members are investing in electric vessels, including Danish operator ForSea, which owns Aurora, one of the world’s biggest battery-powered ferries

By Mike Corrigan |

Following some major advances in 2022, making further progress in securing the economic and environmental viability of the global ferry sector remains the fundamental aim of Interferry and its ever-growing membership this year.    

In my column in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of CFR, I forecast signs of a break in the Covid cloud hanging over the travel market. I also revealed plans for a landmark initiative that would put battery-charged propulsion centre stage in the drive to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. So, where do we stand now?    

The summer season is always key to boosting turnover in the passenger ferry business. Happily, there is good reason to be cautiously upbeat about the current outlook. I say this even though geopolitical situations like the war in Ukraine will inhibit growth in certain regions and impact energy costs, inflation and interest rates worldwide. However, the general trend – supported by a string of newbuild deliveries – suggests traffic is poised to build on 2022 performance, which saw a marked recovery from the Covid-induced slump. Volumes approached or even surpassed the pre-pandemic levels set in 2019, with various operators recording a significant revival in tourism that added crucial income to revenue from residents.     

Meanwhile a milestone on the environmental front came in May 2022 when Interferry launched a global campaign seeking government and port authority investment in shore power supply infrastructure. A quantum leap in electricity grid capacity is vital to support the ferry sector’s industry-leading transition to battery-based power trains. An initial joint promotional agreement was signed with the European Sea Ports Organisation, and we are now pursuing verbal understandings with Cruise Lines International Association, the International Association of Ports and Harbors, and container line organisation, the World Shipping Council. 

The need for such initiatives is underlined by the scale of GHG reduction targets, which are to aim for net-zero emissions by 2050. Talks on interim proposals for 2030 and 2040 will be renewed at imminent meetings of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee after being deferred at last December’s session, but two compliance instruments have already entered force since 1 January 2023. They include the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index, which measures technical standards, and the Carbon Intensity Indicator, which requires a continuous improvement plan for operational efficiency. After years of lobbying, Interferry won sector-specific design and operational amendments to the original proposals and will now monitor their implementation ahead of a systems review scheduled for early 2026.            

Our association is also firmly focused on the European Union’s (EU) recently agreed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), under which vessels of any flag calling at EU ports will gradually surrender their allowances – 40 per cent for verified emissions from 2024, 70 per cent in 2025 and 100 per cent by 2026. Our primary concern is whether the industry will receive any of the ETS revenues to help us meet GHG reduction targets. We made this point in tripartite meetings with the EU’s governing body, executives and parliament last year, and have since signed a working agreement with the European Community Shipowners’ Associations to harness our position and feedback on such issues.   

Interferry’s ‘Stronger Together’ creed was likewise highlighted in Seattle at our 46th annual conference last October, which attracted record attendance of more than 500 participants. This November, we will head to Hobart, Tasmania, marking the third time we have hosted the conference in Australia, following Sydney in 1995 and the Gold Coast in 2002.   

The strength of support we enjoy in Australia speaks volumes for the event’s potential to attract new members who add to the global influence of our powerful membership bases in Europe and North America. Going back to the Asia-Pacific region is another step in promoting our networking, lobbying and best practice benefits – and in 2024, we’re carrying the message to Morocco, staging the event in Africa for the first time.   

In 2022, we recruited 25 new members, taking our total to more than 270 operators and suppliers in 40 countries. More members are likely to join us in 2023 following our participation at the Passenger Vessel Association convention in Long Beach, California, in February, at Shippax Barcelona in Spain this April and at the Canadian Ferry Association event in Vancouver this September. 

With so many mutually advantageous objectives in sight, I can only conclude: long may our joint efforts continue! 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 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 here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door. 

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