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CEOs and senior executives from ferry companies in eight nations in Europe and the Americas have taken part in panel discussions largely centred on plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade – with notable emphasis on the need for shoreside infrastructure to support operator initiatives.

The comments were made last week during shipping association Interferry’s 45th annual conference in Santander, Spain, hosted by Brittany Ferries.

Stena Line’s Niclas Martensson, called zero-emissions ‘a must’ and ‘a survival tool’ – but warned there is ‘no silver bullet’.

‘We are talking about different alternatives including hydrogen, methanol and batteries,’ said Martensson. ‘We don’t yet see that the public is willing to pay for this but we can’t wait for their willingness. The industry must have the mindset to take the first step. We have to protect Mother Earth.’

Patty Rubstello, Assistant Secretary, Washington State Ferries, said: ‘Our customers want it [zero emissions] and they don’t have to pay for it because the government will come up with the dollars. In future we will be fully hybrid. I’m struck by the industry’s single-minded attitude towards reducing emissions. We’re not trying to avoid it, we’re looking for solutions.’

Mark Collins, BC Ferries, said the Canadian company viewed reducing emissions like safety – ‘it’s expected’. 

Collins said: ‘Electrification is the way to go for Canadian operators as we are blessed with a lot of clean hydro power. Meanwhile we see LNG as a sensible interim since British Columbia has the world’s cheapest supply – but all our LNG vessels are designed to be electric in the future.’

Spanish shipping company Baleària is a well-known proponent of LNG, having invested significantly in converting its fleet to run on the fuel.

Georges Bassoul, Director General, Baleària, said: ‘Six years ago we decided to go for gas and today eight of our vessels are operating on this, with more to come. We are very proud that emissions are down 40%. We’ve had to work with port authorities on bunkering and train our people.’

However, Bassoul also conceded that gas is ‘probably transitional’ and revealed the company is studying other technologies.

Commenting on the decarbonisation challenge, Ultramar’s Mauricio Orozco highlighted the potential environmental impact of pursuing net zero – and bemoaned a lack of shore power infrastructure.

‘Regarding let’s go green and reduce emissions…it strikes me that we might be causing emissions someplace else to get that fuel to your boats,’ said Orozco. ‘I would love zero emissions vessels but we have only one port with charging facilities.’

Jadrolinija’s David Sopta also highlighted the importance of port infrastructure to supply green fuel.

‘If financing all falls on ferry companies it’s not fair because it’s not just our problem,’ said Sopta.

Spiros Paschalis, Attica Group, warned meeting decarbonisation targets could not be done by operators alone.

‘We need a joint effort with port authorities and equipment manufacturers,’ said Paschalis.

Condor Ferries’ John Napton also called for port involvement.

‘The key message from this conference is that to reduce emissions our port partners need to come on board,’ said Napton.

Morgan Mooney of FRS/San Juan Clipper, said the fact that the global ferry industry is able to meet again after the pandemic and share its vision ‘reinforces what Interferry constantly reminds us about…that we are stronger together.’

Regarding the ultimate drive towards electrification, CEO Mike Corrigan signalled Interferry’s intention to get governments, ports and energy companies onside in order to provide adequate power infrastructure so that ferries can plug in.

‘Going forward, we will use the findings from our study on the ferry industry’s size and economic impact to push decision makers towards funding port-side power development,’ said Corrigan. ‘A unified approach is critical in supporting operators’ own commitment to achieving the emissions reduction targets set by the IMO, European Union and other regulators on the path to zero.’

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