Why Irish Ferries is investing in new fuels and eco-friendly technologies

Andrew Sheen shares how the brand is working to make its ships more sustainable

Why Irish Ferries is investing in new fuels and eco-friendly technologies
Andrew Sheen, managing director of Irish Ferries, says the brand aims to become more sustainable in the coming years

By Justin Merrigan |

Owing to its vivid vegetation, Ireland has long been known as the Emerald Isle. Likewise, the colour green has been key in Irish Ferries’ distinctive branding since it was formed in 1973. Little wonder then that Irish Ferries takes its green responsibilities seriously. 

Ferry travel is an attractive option for eco-conscious travellers. Recent reports show that for for the same distance travelled, the ferry emits one per cent of what the plane emits in terms of carbon dioxide per tonne-kilometres. In addition, the ferry industry is actively implementing measures to further reduce its environmental footprint. 

“As exemplified by our recent fleet adaptations, various eco-friendly technologies and practices have been introduced to enhance fuel efficiency and minimise emissions,” says Andrew Sheen, managing director of Irish Ferries. “Propeller optimisation, LED lighting changes, variable frequency drives to HVAC systems, and fuel monitoring and advice systems are all steps taken by Irish Ferries to improve sustainability.” 

The company is also considering fully electrifying ferries for certain routes. “Electrified ships, when powered by renewable energy sources, can operate with zero emissions during their journeys, making them a highly eco-friendly option for maritime travel,” says Sheen.

“We’ve also been evaluating various fuel options. Biofuels derived from renewable resources have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels. As technology and availability continues to improve, these fuels could become a viable and low-carbon alternative for the shipping industry a lot quicker than alternatives such as methanol.”

Biofuels are also lower in toxicity than other fuels, such as ammonia which Sheen says potentially poses risks to passengers and the environment due to its high toxicity. “Biofuels offer more overall benefit than LNG too, as they exhibit lower toxicity and methane slip, making them a safer and environmentally friendly option for powering passenger ships, where four-stroke, medium-speed engines are typically installed,” he explains.

“Alongside this, we are exploring how friction reduction solutions, such as passive air lubrication systems, can further enhance our hull efficiency to cut emissions during voyages in the short term and our overall long-term energy requirements, regardless of the core energy source we’re using.”

Irish Ferries also continues to evolve its award-winning fleet and well-regarded hospitality services. 
“Oscar Wilde, which joined the Pembroke – Rosslare route in June 2023, offers passengers spacious and modern interiors, with a choice of lounges and dining options,” says Sheen. The ship also boasts a large onboard shopping space for generous duty-free allowances. 

“Oscar Wilde has been warmly received by those who have travelled onboard, and the feedback has been excellent from all our customers.”

Passengers can choose between three vessels on the 90-minute route between Dover, UK, and Calais, France. “Isle of Inishmore, Isle of Innisfree, and Isle of Inisheer offer personalised experiences with 14 food and beverage outlets between them,” says Sheen. “Meanwhile, the overnight route from Dublin, Ireland, to Cherbourg, France, is serviced by the award-winning W.B. Yeats, which provides a relaxed and stylish sea travel experience. This ship offers refined accommodation, a range of dining options, and family-friendly entertainment.”

Ulysses provides services between Holyhead, Wales, and Dublin. “Passengers can enjoy comfortable spaces, including the Martello Club Class lounge with sea views, complimentary drinks, and premium wi-fi,” says Sheen. “The James Joyce Balcony lounge offers views directly to the sky, ideal for relaxing on night crossings.”

Also servicing the Holyhead route is the high-speed craft, Dublin Swift. 

“Over the past 20 years, the average weight of cars has increased, leading to deadweight capacity constraints on our original fast craft, Jonathan Swift,” says Sheen. “To address this issue, Irish Ferries purchased Dublin Swift in 2016 after a short-term military charter. We enhanced its physical capacity by adding a hoistable car deck and improved manoeuvrability with retractable bow thrusters. It has been in service since 2019, but due to Covid, 2022 marked its first full summer service.”

The craft is laid out over one deck. Club Class offers commanding views over the ship’s bow. Since the UK’s departure from the European Union, the duty-free store has been increased by 33 per cent.

“While full food offerings are often limited on these types of ships, Dublin Swift provides a full Irish breakfast in the mornings, full hot meal ranges and a wide range of alternatives,” says Sheen. “The crossing time of two hours and 15 minutes, compared to conventional ships’ three hours and 45 minutes, is not the only fast aspect of this ship; unloading the last car during full loads typically takes less than 15 minutes.”

The company has already conducted successful trials of biofuel on Dublin Swift and plans to experiment with up to 80 per cent sustainable fuel by the end of the 2023 summer season. Sheen says this could potentially lead to an impressive 80 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

With its commitment to warm hospitality, excellent service and sustainability, Irish Ferries continues to offer passengers an enjoyable and responsible journey across the Irish Sea and beyond.

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 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 to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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