11 hybrid-powered passenger ferries will join UK fleets by 2027

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According to industry body Discover Ferries, 11 fuel-efficient, hybrid-powered ships will join UK passenger ferry fleets by 2027, to reduce carbon emissions and improve the passenger experience.

A zero-emissions Belfast commuter service is due to launch in 2024. Designed to fly above the water and use 90% less energy than conventional ferries, the ship is being developed by the Belfast Maritime Consortium with Condor Ferries, and will also inform plans for a future electric ferry for the Channel Islands.

Two new P&O Ferries ships, launching in 2023, are designed to run on battery power for carbon-neutral sailings once charging systems are installed in the ports. Hybrid vessels are in development for routes operated by Brittany Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Travel, Caledonian MacBrayne and London’s Uber Boat by Thames Clippers – which is set to launch the high-speed hybrid ferries in 2023. The vessels can either run on fuel/biofuel or electricity or a combination of the two. As well as fewer emissions, they have been designed to be quieter and offer a smoother ride for passengers, residents near ports and marine life.

To reduce carbon by a further 7,500 tonnes per year, Wightlink aims to launch an all-electric freight and passenger ferry within the next five years. Similarly, all-electric vessels are in development by Caledonian MacBrayne for the west coast of Scotland. Both Wightlink and Brittany Ferries plan for future vessels to be plugged in at port to recharge. The ferry operators’ commitment coincides with Portsmouth International Port’s investment in solar generation, which is expected to be completed in early 2023. The 2,600 panels will sit above Brittany Ferries’ car lanes, providing shade for the vehicles while generating power. With a 1.5MWh battery to store unused power, the renewable energy project could contribute up to 98% of the port’s electricity consumption in ideal conditions.

Stena Line is developing its next generation of E-Flexer vessels, which will be dual-fuel methanol hybrids. The ferry operator is working with engine manufacturers to convert the vessels and develop the port infrastructure to support them. The newly converted ships will operate on routes from Harwich in the UK to the Hook of Holland and from Belfast in Northern Ireland to Cairnryan in Scotland.

In 2023, P&O Ferries will launch its largest and most sustainable ships – P&O Pioneer and P&O Liberté – to sail between Dover and France. The two new double-ender ferries enable boarding and disembarkation at both ends to aid fast turnaround on the busy Dover-Calais service. With a capacity of 1,500 passengers each, they are expected to improve economic and environmental efficiencies.

The Port of Dover itself is targeting net zero emissions by 2025 and was recently awarded funding as part of the Green Corridor Short Straits (GCSS) consortium. This includes French ports Calais and Dunkirk, ferry operators Irish Ferries, DFDS and P&O Ferries, among other partners. The aim of the feasibility study is to begin establishing a zero-carbon trade route in the UK.

Brittany Ferries, which operates services on the western Channel to France and Spain, will launch Santoña, a new ferry fueled by liquified natural gas (LNG), in the spring of 2023. Sister to the Salamanca, which entered service in 2022, the ships cut CO2 output by approximately 25% and reduce emissions that affect air quality. Fuel agnostic, they can also run on even cleaner fuels such as bio-LNG and e-methane when infrastructure is in place.

Six ships have already entered service in the past two years. Three of Stena Line’s bigger E-Flexer ships have already been deployed in the Irish Sea; these are the same models as DFDS’s Côte D’Opale and Brittany Ferries’ Santoña, Salamanca and Galicia. Stena Estrid, Embla and Edda have boosted Stena Line’s capacity on the Irish Sea by a third and are 30% more energy efficient than the vessels they replaced. Recently added silicon coverings on the hulls improve fuel efficiency further.

The new Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ship can carry approximately 50% more passengers than the current ferry and features more cabins. The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group is also working toward replacing its passenger ferry and freight ships. Its new passenger ferry, Scillonian IV, will accommodate up to 600 passengers, increasing capacity by more than 20%.

Abby Penlington, director of Discover Ferries, commented, “This industry-wide investment is great news for the millions of travelers who value comfort, space and value for money but are also mindful of their environmental impact. The new vessels are important milestones in our journey toward a net-zero industry that operates across 80 passenger ferry routes from the British Isles.

“As well as improved efficiency and a switch to cleaner fuels and hybrid propulsion, the new ships boast new onboard facilities and upgraded interiors to offer passengers and, increasingly, their pets a comfortable journey in a truly modern setting. Together with more sustainable engines, the improved onboard experience ensures future generations of ferry travelers, further cementing our industry’s future.”

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As the latest addition to the UKi Media & Events team, Elizabeth brings research skills from her English degree to her keen interest in the meteorological and transportation industries. Having taken the lead in student and startup publications, she has gained experience in editing online and print titles on a wide variety of topics. In her current role as Editorial Assistant, Elizabeth will create new and topical content on the pioneering technologies in transportation, logistics and meteorology.

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