In the last issue of Sea Breezes, I wrote of the breathtaking development of Irish Sea ferry operations over the past two decades and the list of new tonnage currently on order for services in the sector.
Widening the scope somewhat, we see that the ferry industry, as a whole, is witnessing new tonnage order levels not seen for a very long time.
It is tempting to suggest that these new orders are driven by the quest for alternative fuels and in particular LNG, but if one looks closer then we see that is not quite the case. Take Stena’s six new E-Flexer vessels; all but one will run on traditional fuel albeit designed to the class notation ‘gas ready’ and are also prepared for catalytic scrubbers, thus providing increased fl exibility for the future.
Meanwhile, Irish Ferries’ WB Yeats and their latest order for Dublin – Holyhead, due in 2020, will both use scrubber technology. The order for the latter ship took many by surprise. She will provide the capability to carry a staggering 330 freight units per sailing – a 50% increase in peak freight capacity compared to the Ulysses.
The fact is that while LNG fuel is certainly a step in the right direction, it is unlikely to go far enough to cut emissions by 2050 and many ferry operators realise this. Rather it is more likely the current drive for new tonnage rests in simple timing. While the sector continues its post-GFC recovery, existing tonnage needs replacement and this is coupled with vastly improved options for vessel finance.
It is interesting to see the continued drift of Ro-pax orders to China and of course the Stena E-Flexer class ferries will be built by Chinese shipyard AVIC International. In June, Stena Line confirmed that three of the six vessels will enter service on the Irish Sea. In addition to the three ships for Stena Line, two vessels will be long-term chartered by Brittany Ferries for their Spanish services from Portsmouth and one by DFDS for the Dover to Calais service.
The two Brittany Ferries vessels, Galicia and Salamanca, will enter service in 2021 and 2022 respectively; the second vessel being the sixth of the E-Flexers, but the fi rst completed to operate using LNG fuel. Brittany Ferries CEO Christophe Mathieu, says “The second E-Flexer represents the next step in our long-term investment strategy. If you think about it, this will be Brittany Ferries’ third new ship post-Brexit, after Honfleur and the first e-Flexer. I think this is a clear statement about our commitment to the future and investment in fleet renewal. Like Honfleur, the new ship will be powered by LNG, so it is also a real commitment to sustainability.”
No sooner had last month’s issue of Sea Breezes gone to press, than Stena decided to exercise its option to build a seventh and eighth E-Flexer vessel. The two vessels will be deployed within Stena Line’s route network with a planned delivery in 2022. Additionally, Stena RoRo has taken an option on the construction of a further four E-Flexer vessels also to be built at Avic Weihai Shipyard, China.