Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2023

102 INTERVIEW Prioritising sustainability Abby Penlington of Discover Ferries predicts hybrid vessels, new propulsion technologies and other sustainability initiatives will dramatically improve the UK ferry industry’s carbon footprint. Adam Lawrence reports Ferries are long-term investments for their owners and operators. As they are built to last for an average of 25-30 years, the industry is relatively slow at rolling out new technologies. But, says director of UK-based industry body Discover Ferries Abby Penlington, the sector is coming to a tipping point, with many operators either having or planning to introduce new ships with innovative, less polluting propulsion systems. “Five new ships have entered service in the past two years, of which one is hybrid, two LNG and three more efficient diesel vessels, and a further 15 will join fleets by 2027,” says Penlington. “Hybrid ferries are providing a stepping stone towards zero emissions. These new vessels are designed to run more efficiently today but can also adapt to take advantage of future technological developments and become even more efficient, for example, when ports have the infrastructure to support vessels plugging in to shore power.” Operators including P&O Ferries, Brittany Ferries, Stena Line and several others are investing heavily in hybrid technologies. “As well as fewer emissions, they are significantly quieter and offer a smoother ride – great for passengers, residents near ports and marine life,” says Penlington. “In terms of fall in carbon emissions, P&O Ferries estimate that its new hybrid ferries P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté will reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent initially, with more reductions to come when infrastructure allows.” Scottish operator Caledonian MacBrayne was the first British line to introduce hybrid technology in 2011. It now has three of the vessels in use, with four more to enter service alongside two LNG ships in the next two years. Isle of Wight operator Wightlink is drawing up plans for an all-electric ferry. “A zeroemissions commuter service is due to launch between the Irish ports of Belfast and Bangor in 2024,” says Penlington. “Designed to fly above the water and use 90 per cent less energy than conventional ferries, the ship is being developed by the Belfast Maritime Consortium with Condor Ferries.” Propulsion technology is not the only way in which the ferry sector is tackling sustainability. Ports are becoming greener too. “Portsmouth International Port is the first UK port to install solar canopies; 2,600 panels sit above Brittany Ferries’ car lanes providing shade for the vehicles while generating power,” says Penlington. “Together with a 1.5-megawatt per hour battery to store unused power, the renewable energy project could contribute up to 98 per cent of the port’s electricity consumption in ideal conditions. Having already reduced its direct carbon emissions by 95 per cent since 2007, the Port of Dover is targeting net zero emissions by 2025 and was recently awarded funding as part of the Green Corridor Short Straits (GCSS) consortium.” Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s new diesel-electric hybrid ferry Manxman began sailing from the Isle of Man and Heysham in Lancashire, UK