The importance of considering sustainability first

Justin Merrigan explores the key newbuilds featuring in the current ferry industry order book

The importance of considering sustainability first
Brittany Ferries' LNG-fuelled Honfleur will be the most environmentally friendly ferry operating regularly on the English Channel

By Justin Merrigan |

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Probably more than any other marine sector, the ferry industry has adapted and reinvented itself to survive over the years, adopting new technologies along the way. The introduction of new sulphur emission rules in 2015 presented significant challenges to ferry operators across northern Europe; challenges they met in various ways with the help of different technologies. Today, the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers) is widespread, while methanol fuel has been trialled and, LNG fuel has become a preferred option for many newbuilds.

Brittany Ferries, for example, has now signed its long-anticipated order for a new LNG-fuelled ferry on the route between Ouistreham, France and Portsmouth, UK. “Fleet renewal is an important strategic goal for Brittany Ferries,” says CEO Christophe Mathieu. “We have to continue to lead the sector with class-leading ships that respect the environments in which we operate, and offer facilities that exceed customer expectations and are for the digital age. Brexit is a challenge and uncertainty is unhelpful for any business, but we’re optimistic and the time is right to invest. Despite choppy waters today, I strongly believe the future will be calmer, more certain and, I hope, profitable.” Brittany Ferries has turned to Germany-based yard Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesselschaft for the new ferry, to be named Honfleur. One challenge facing Brittany Ferries is the lack of port storage facilities for LNG fuel, but it’s come up with an innovative system using LNG containers.

“It’s an innovative solution and a world first,” says Mathieu. “LNG containers will be delivered to Ouistreham by truck, then driven on to the ship in port. From there, an onboard crane will hoist them into a fixed position aft of the superstructure where they will feed an LNG master tank. When tanks are empty, the process will take place in reverse. In future, LNG storage may be available in ports, but we can’t wait for this. We must take the lead and this solution is an important first step – maybe a giant leap – for us and the ferry sector as a whole.”

Fuelling was also a major consideration for Caledonian Marine Assets Ltd’s (CMAL) two dual-fuel ferries, which are being built at Ferguson Marine Engineering for Scottish operator CalMac Ferries. “A vessel is constructed and delivered on the basis of plying its trade in Scottish waters for a period of 35 years,” says Kevin Hobbs, CMAL CEO. “While there are, and continue to be, challenges regarding the supply of LNG in Scotland, it was seen as a progressive move to build a dual-fuel vessel.”

Martin Dorchester, managing director of CalMac Ferries, adds: “The new ships currently under construction a short distance from our Gourock headquarters are currently earmarked for two of our most popular routes – the Clyde island of Arran and the Skye-Outer Hebrides triangle services to North Uist and Harris.”

Elsewhere in Europe, Norway is leading the charge for zero emission ferry operations, with the government revealing that it would like to see only fully electric, hydrogen-fuelled ferries operating on its coast by 2030. Norwegian operators Fjord1 has already ordered five all-electric ferries from Havyard Ship Technology. Scheduled for delivery in 2018 and 2019, they will be built at the Leirvik shipyard in Norway, which is currently constructing three more ferries for Fjord1.

While European yards are enjoying the benefits of high demand for large green ro-pax ferries, it’s hard to ignore that some big operators have drifted towards Chinese yards. Last year, Stena Line signed a newbuild contract for four ro-pax ferries from AVIC Shipyard, which are scheduled for delivery in 2019 and 2020. The contract also contains an option for another four vessels.

“The new ro-pax vessels will be among the most fuel efficient in the world, with approximately 25% lower carbon dioxide emissions per cargo unit than current ro-pax tonnage,” comments Niclas Mårtensson. “Our aim is to lead the development of sustainability within the shipping industry and set a new industry standard when it comes to operational performance, emissions and cost competiveness. The vessels will run on traditional fuel, but are designed to the class notation ‘gas ready’ and are also prepared for scrubbers and catalytic converters to give us flexibility for the future.”

Meanwhile, Finnish operator Viking Line has confirmed its order for a new cruise ferry from Chinese yard Xiamen Shipbuilding, with an option for another vessel. Slated for delivery in 2020, the new ferry will operate on the route from Turku to the Åland Islands (both in Finland) and Stockholm, Sweden.

In a statement intended to bring some comfort to Finnish shipbuilding, Viking Line president and CEO Jan Hanses says the new vessel will be a ‘collaborative project’ that will involve Finnish and other European suppliers. Scandinavian architects will also be used for the interior design.

In the high-speed sector, Australia-based shipbuilder Incat Tasmania has been winning attention. It is building a new ferry for Spanish operator Naviera Armas, due for delivery in early 2019. The vessel will be the second in Incat’s next-generation of 109-metre, high-speed, wave-piercing passenger catamarans.

“The 109-metre catamaran is our response to increasing demand for quality newbuild high-speed craft that will provide reliable year-round service,” says Tim Burnell, Incat’s general manager. “We pioneered this mode of high-speed transport in 1990 and our ferries have since operated over 2.5 million hours in intensive commercial service. By deconstructing already successful designs and operator experience, Incat has produced a fast ferry that truly is of a new generation.”

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