Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2022

9 3 term, when a more mature and stable transport and storage system than the current compressed hydrogen is available,” says Utor, elaborating on Baleària’s green agenda. Baleària is one of the very few operators in the Mediterranean that has a strong commitment to using LNG fuel as a stopgap solution. In addition to Eleanor Roosevelt and the 2019-built Visentiniclass Hypatia de Alejandría and Marie Curie, Baleària retrofitted no fewer than six of its existing ro-pax ferries to LNG propulsion, quite an achievement and an industry first. Despite European Union subsidies, the retrofit cost borne by Baleària was still significant, setting the company apart. The LNG price hike has prompted Baleària to partially switch to cheaper marine gas oil, yet Utor confirms that the operator has not stopped using LNG at any time. “However, we have currently reduced the consumption of LNG in our dual-fuel engines, limiting it to manoeuvres and port stays,” he says. “We will obviously return to 100 per cent LNG consumption when the price becomes competitive again. Our vocation to respect the environment is incompatible with a loss of competitiveness that would risk our viability.” Although Utor agrees that LNG is a transition fuel, it will remain part of Baleària’s fuel mix in the medium term. “The strategic commitment to LNG as a transitional energy remains unchanged even though we are aware that it is not the best option right now [due to its high cost]. We’re also actively involved in different projects linked to the use of renewable energies with the aim of achieving zero-emission shipping by 2050. Apart from green hydrogen, this also includes biomethane. Renewable gas is a reality, and dual-fuel engines will be able to inject both renewable gas and up to 25 per cent of hydrogen, something currently scrutinised by Wärtsilä.” When asked about further fleet renewal and whether Baleària would consider lengthening its Visentini-class vessels in a similar way to Stena Line’s recent project in Turkey, Utor kept his cards close to his chest. To reinforce its connections between the peninsula and the Balearic Islands, Baleària recently took Stena RoRo’s Visentini-class Kerry on a two-year time charter with United Marine Egypt’s Wasa Express remaining on charter for the rest of 2022, providing services to North Africa. When Eleanor Roosevelt was still under construction at Astilleros Armón, Utor told local press that he might consider a repeat order, providing that the highspeed ro-pax catamaran was a success. So, how successful has the craft been from a technical viewpoint and what has been the feedback from the ship’s everyday users so far? “Eleanor Roosevelt has maintained very high occupancy rates with a very satisfactory commercial result,” says Utor. “In terms of seaworthiness in adverse sea conditions, the ferry’s performance has been exceptional and in line with forecasts. Overall, we are very satisfied with the new fast ferry, and we are indeed seriously considering constructing a new version with improvements in the general layout of the passenger areas, the vehicle decks and the power of the engines. But I cannot confirm contracts at the present time.” CFR Passengers onboard Baleària’s latest addition, the high-speed craft Eleanor Roosevelt