It seems ferry companies are falling over themselves to claim they are introducing the world’s most fuel efficient and cleanest exhaust emitting vessels on the planet.
Last year, Stena announced a newbuild contract from China of four RoPax ferry vessels with a planned delivery schedule during 2019 and 2020. The contract also contains an option for another four vessels to be ordered. The four vessels are being built at the AVIC Shipyard in China and they are, apparently, to be allocated to the Irish Sea for Stena Line’s routes to and from its Belfast hub.
Belfast, Stena states, is strategically very important to them and in recent years, they have invested in ports and vessels to improve and develop capacity there. Looking ahead, the new ferries will capitalise on that investment. During recent years, Stena have seen a steady growth in freight and passenger volumes and they believe it will continue and 2016 was a record year when, for the first time, they carried over 500,000 freight units through Belfast Port.
I assume the four new vessels, in time, will replace both Stena Superfasts on the Cairnryan run and the Belfast-Liverpool Visentini pair which would be a significant upgrading of that route. Interestingly, unlike Brittany Ferries’ proposals and new-builds on the Baltic, the new vessels will be conventionally fuelled, but will be built with ‘gas ready’ machinery and also be prepared for scrubbers as well as catalytic converters giving Stena “flexibility for the future”. And they “will be among the most fuel efficient in the world” with, they say, approximately 25% lower CO2 emissions per cargo unit than current tonnage.
The Stena Line press release reminds us they are one of Europe’s leading ferry companies with 36 vessels and 20 routes. I was surprised to be reminded that the company, with a Gothenburg HQ, is still family-owned and founded in 1962. Stena Line is part of the Stena AB Group, which has 15,000 employees and an annual turnover of around 36,5 billion SEK.
As I have said in these pages, this order for four and possibly eight new hi-tech ferries will make China a major force in ferry building in future and this is will be boosted further on their recent announcement China will build large Western designed and managed cruise liners, especially for the Chinese market. This may have serious ramifications for European ferry building in the future.
Readers might recall, a few years ago, Brittany Ferries had plans to develop a large gas fuelled ferry to be ordered and designed at a French yard, but this scheme was withdrawn when they realised they were required to adapt all of their ferries to low emissions mode at a large cost in terms of exhaust cleaning technology. The fleet has since absorbed that investment of £65 million in emission-reducing ‘scrubber’ systems which have been retrospectively fitted to six cruise ferries in the company’s ten-ship fleet and now the company are thinking of new tonnage once more. This time from Flensburger Schiffbau, Germany.
A letter of intent has been signed with that yard for a new 42,000gt ship powered by LNG with 257 cabins for upto 1,680 passengers and 2,600 lane metres capacity: said to be 130 freight trailers, or 550 cars and 64 freight trailers. The CEO of Brittany Ferries said this was a “step towards the construction of a new generation of Brittany Ferries ships. Despite Brexit, we remain confi dent in our ability to continue to grow and modernise our route network, serving both tourism and trade in the regions of western”.
More than four in five people travelling with Brittany Ferries are British and more than 2.4 million passengers were carried in 2016. A fi nal contract for the new vessel is expected to be signed in spring 2017, following which construction will start and is expected to launch in 2019 for the Portsmouth-Caen route which offers three daily return sailings. It will operate in tandem with Mont St Michel delivered in 2002.