Supporting the ambitions of the ferry industry

Mike Corrigan explains Interferry’s wide-ranging new vision to help shape the ferry industry’s future
Supporting the ambitions of the ferry industry
Mike Corrigan joins Guy Platten on the stage at the 2019 Interferry conference in London

By Mike Corrigan |

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. This proven truism is the driving force behind initiatives now under way to take Interferry’s reach and influence to even higher levels through the visionary measures we have embraced in our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan.

Launched in January following top-flight consultation with our members, the plan not only reaffirms our regulatory mission to help protect the ferry industry’s viability – it also introduces a pledge for action to enhance recognition of the industry’s unique contribution to society at large.

From its 1976 origins as a US-based networking platform, Interferry has long since evolved into an internationally renowned lobbying force – notably through consultative status at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – to become the ferry community’s global voice. However, an unprecedented tide of commercial and regulatory pressures means there has never been a more crucial time to increase our support.

Building on the Stronger Together strategy in force since I joined Interferry in April 2017, our new three-year plan intensifies activity across several key areas.

Supported by the expert input of its specially formed committees and working groups, Interferry is committed to promoting the highest standards on fundamental safety, security and environmental sustainability issues.

This was particularly evident at our 44th annual conference in London in October 2019, which highlighted how the climate emergency has sharpened focus on battery and hydrogen power as clean alternatives to fossil fuels. The ferry sector’s leadership in this drive towards zero emissions was acknowledged by International Chamber of Shipping secretary general Guy Platten, who stressed: “You are the shipping industry pioneers and will light the path. We want to learn from you to take the whole industry forward.”

Interferry is also flying the flag for safety enhancements. A team from our FERRYSAFE project made two visits to the Philippines in 2019 to research how the country has dramatically improved domestic ferry safety over the past decade. The team has since produced a ‘lessons learned’ report to assist other developing nations.

Meanwhile, we are among 27 research and industry partners in the LASHFIRE initiative, a four-year, European Union-funded project to identify additional fire safety innovations. We are overseeing an advisory group of operators.

Providing leadership in formulating regulatory policy is one of Interferry’s primary roles, particularly as safety and environmental proposals can sometimes unintentionally penalise the sector-specific demands of ferry design and operation. Most urgent at present is the monumental issue of greenhouse gas emissions, where the IMO has proposed potential short-term measures en route to achieving a required 40% energy efficiency improvement by 2030. We are lobbying to ensure that stricter proposals are appropriate for ferry operators.

Our strategic plan includes promoting the reliability, efficiency and attractiveness of ferry transport. The evidence already exists. Most developed-world operators are enjoying year-on-year traffic growth – often to record levels – thanks to enhanced shipboard and leisure offerings, and rising demand has prompted a surge in newbuild orders.

The world’s ferries carry more than two billion passengers a year, which almost equals airline volumes. That may come as a surprise to non-customers and even many politicians. Backed by independent research, we intend to promote the industry’s economic and social value as incomparable providers of safe, cost effective, enjoyable and eco-friendly travel and trade.

Interferry’s current membership of more than 260 operators and suppliers in 40 countries is largely based in North America, Europe and not least Australia – where our 45th annual conference in October will be hosted in Hobart, Tasmania. We are now reaching out to under-represented regions, especially in developing nations, which will boost our collaboration on safety initiatives.

We have a lot of planning to do, but what counts from here is the action. And on that, we stand together because failure is not an option.

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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