Unveiling Strategies for Net Zero: The Future of Ferries

Credit: Gabriel Peter/Pexels

The chief executives of Wasaline and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers discussed their intentions for zero emissions at the webinar Ferries of the Future: Navigating the Route to net zero presented by Riviera Maritime Media. 

The Aurora Botnia passenger ferry

Ferry operator, Wasaline, aims for its traffic between Vasa and Umea to be climate neutral by 2030. The company has already reduced emissions by 52-67% per voyage between 2013 and 2022. Mr Ståhlberg, the target said, The Aurora Botnia passenger ferry, delivered in 2021, is key to this achievement, designed to be the most environmentally friendly passenger ferry on earth with the ability to run on different fuels such as diesel, bio-LNG, and batteries. Predictive maintenance and a long-term operational agreement were used to increase operational reliability and reduce costs. Wasaline plans to continue using alternative fuels and innovations to reduce CO2 emissions further.

Future-ready and sustainable

Maintenance and sustainability were significant factors in the design of Wasaline’s Aurora Botnia passenger ferry, with 80% of the ship made in Europe to enable the use of nearby service clusters and spare parts. The ferry was designed to be future-ready for upgrades and sustainability improvements. The use of biogas was prioritized, with efforts to use it more efficiently and locate biogas producers closer to the ship. Wasaline is open to investing in different solutions for alternative fuels, but availability remains a challenge, with emissions trade needing to be directed towards sustainable and economical fuel production.

Key issues

Wasaline is aiming to make its traffic between Vasa and Umea climate neutral by 2030, with a reduction in emissions of 52-67% per voyage between 2013 and 2022. Its Aurora Botnia passenger ferry is designed to run on dual fuel, including diesel and bio-LNG, and use batteries for zero emissions in harbours. The company is investigating alternative fuels such as biogas, hydrogen, bio-methanol, and fuel cells, with availability being a key issue. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers is investing in a fleet of 21 vessels and building three new vessels that will operate purely on batteries in the central zone of the Thames, powered by hydrated vegetable oil (HVO) in the outer zones. The company was involved in building a fully electric high-speed passenger ferry for the EU Horizon 2020 TrAM project, which demonstrated the need for hybrid vessels for future newbuilds.

A hybrid option

Uber Boat by Thames Clippers plans to operate its new vessels on batteries in the central zone and on diesel engines powered by Hydrated vegetable oil (HVO) in the outer zones. The new vessels are being built under the Hybrid Hunt Class Mark 4 and are identical, with the ability to operate purely on batteries in the central zone where the speed is below 12 knots. The company has been involved in a project funded by the EU to build a fully electric high-speed passenger ferry, which demonstrated that a hybrid option is the closest the company can get to fully electric vessels at this stage. However, Thames Clippers plans to build a cross-river ferry that will be zero emissions, with infrastructure installed on either side of the river to charge the vessel overnight, providing a full day of operation on a single overnight charge. The new ferry will have a capacity for 150 passengers and cycles, be fully electric, and have a tailpipe with zero emission with power from a green source, among other features.

Webinar poll results

What are the biggest challenges facing the ferry industry as it navigates the path to net-zero emissions?

  • The high cost of transitioning to low-carbon technologies, such as electric or hydrogen-powered engines and charging infrastructure: (16%)
  • The limited availability and high cost of low-carbon fuels, such as biofuels and synthetic fuels, which can be challenging to produce and distribute on a large scale: (42%)
  • The need to balance the transition to low-carbon technologies with other priorities such as safety, reliability and affordability, which can be difficult to achieve simultaneously: (21%)
  • The need for collaboration and coordination across the industry to achieve economies of scale and accelerate the adoption of low-carbon technologies: (16%)
  • The challenge of meeting regulatory requirements and keeping pace with evolving emissions standards while maintaining profitability and competitiveness: (5%)

Which of the following do you believe is the most important factor to consider when designing a future-proof ferry?

  • The use of low-emissions propulsion systems, such as electric, hydrogen, or hybrid engines, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality: 71%
  • The incorporation of energy-efficient technologies, such as LED lighting, smart heating and cooling systems, and energy management systems, to reduce energy consumption and operating costs: 12%
  • The use of sustainable and recyclable materials in the construction of the ferry to minimise its environmental impact throughout its lifecycle: 12%
  • The integration of smart technologies and data analytics to optimise operations and improve safety, comfort and passenger experience: 5%

What do you believe are the most significant challenges to implementing infrastructure and shoreside power supply for electric (and other) ferries?

  • The high capital costs associated with building charging infrastructure and upgrading power grids to accommodate the increased demand for electricity: 64%
  • The limited availability of renewable energy sources and the need to rely on traditional power sources, such as fossil fuels, in some regions: 9%
  • The lack of standardisation in charging technologies and protocols, which can lead to compatibility issues and operational inefficiencies: 18%
  • The regulatory barriers and bureaucratic processes involved in obtaining permits and approvals for the installation of charging infrastructure and other facilities: 9%
  • The challenges of managing and maintaining the infrastructure and power supply systems, particularly in remote or harsh environments where weather and other factors can impact performance: 0%

Which of the following do you believe is the most effective long-term regulatory option for achieving zero-carbon ferries?

  • Implementing emissions standards and targets for the maritime industry, and providing financial incentives for ferry operators to switch to low-carbon or zero-emissions technologies: 36%
  • Introducing carbon pricing or carbon tax policies that place a price on carbon emissions from ferries, and using the revenues to fund research and development of sustainable technologies: 27%
  • Strengthening international agreements and regulations on emissions reduction, and ensuring they are enforced and implemented effectively: 0%
  • Encouraging collaboration between industry stakeholders, governments and research institutions to share knowledge, resources and best practices for achieving zero-carbon ferries: 9%
  • Developing and supporting innovation and R&D efforts to create new, more efficient and sustainable technologies for powering ferries, and providing funding and investment opportunities for promising projects: 28%


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Source: Riviera