Ferry Business - Spring/Summer 2023

108 COMMENTARY MICHAEL GREY Michael Grey is a master mariner turned maritime journalist and has edited both Fairplay and Lloyd’s List in a career spanning more than 60 years. When talking about the ferry industry, it is perhaps understandable that so much of the focus is placed on the ships that operate the services. Each vessel represents a significant investment and there is always a touch of glamour whenever a new one enters service – it’s seen as an expression of confidence in future growth and improved productivity in a competitive market. The trend for both passenger and freight service providers is to build bigger, better and more cost-effective vessels which, these days, feature environmental and sustainability improvements. We can see this with Stena Line’s E-Flexer series, in which the name gives a clue to their advantages over smaller, less flexible predecessors, as well as the large Cobelfret freight ships which swallow up miles of trailers on several routes in North Europe. Meanwhile, the two P&O Ferries’ doubleended ferries soon to enter service on the cross-Channel route between Dover, England, and Calais, France, will feature diesel-battery power plants and a design that will reduce fuel consumption by some 40 per cent compared to the existing and far smaller ships they will replace. And that distinctive doubleended design will save more time and fuel, eliminating the need to turn around, back and fill, into the berths. It ought to make a big difference over quite a short period, with so many crossings each day. But if we are thinking about the productivity and competitiveness of a ferry operator, the ship should not be the only criterion. Having efficient terminal facilities, in the right place, is every bit as important, which transfers at least half of the responsibility to the port operator that must provide them. One can think of a Far more than a ship Having spacious and cost-effective vessels is a bonus for every ferry brand but the secret to successful operations lies in having helpful staff and well-equipped and well-located ports Having helpful staff, both onboard the ferries and in the ports, ensure smooth services and a seamless passenger experience Photo: istock.com/K Neville