In order to help the ferry industry decarbonize, ports around the world need to be equipped with shoreside infrastructure to supply alternative fuels. A joint industry effort, supported by governments, is needed to achieve the ultimate goal, operators believe.

The conclusion was made following the release of a new study commissioned by trade association Interferry. The study revealed “startling statistics” on the far-reaching extent of the global ferry industry’s value to the world economy.

Research into the latest pre-Covid full-year figures found that, in 2019, ferries carried 4.27 billion passengers and 373 million vehicles across a worldwide fleet of 15,400 vessels. Among other findings, the industry provided 1.1 million jobs, contributed $60 billion to the world GDP and represented approximately 20% of shipping’s economic value to the European Union.

“We already knew that the ferry segment punches well above its weight – it comprises only 3-5% of the total shipping industry – but the scale of the findings surprised even seasoned insiders,” Mike Corrigan, Interferry CEO, commented.

“Now perhaps we’ll get the political consideration that all too often is more focused on airlines, rail operators and road transport. It’s long overdue for governments and the general public to appreciate the huge part that ferries play in passenger and freight transport – and this study confirms our sector’s vital importance in the process.”

Corrigan announced the findings at Interferry’s 45th annual conference held on 2-6 October in Santander, Spain and hosted by Brittany Ferries. At the event – themed The Future is Ferries – more than 300 participants debated positive solutions and prospects in response to challenges such as Covid-19 and climate change.


Interferry to call on governments, stakeholders to support ferry industry’s decarbonization efforts

Regarding the ultimate drive towards electrification, Corrigan has 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,” Interferry CEO said.

“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.”

Ferry industry and net-zero target

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

“Ports must be equipped with the infrastructure to supply green fuel. If financing all falls on ferry companies it’s not fair because it’s not just our problem,” David Sopta, President of the Management board of Jadrolinija, stressed.

“We depend on ports and they have to be involved. The key message from this conference is that to reduce emissions our port partners need to come on board,” John Napton, CEO of Condor Ferries, said.

The same opinion was shared by Spiros Paschalis, CEO of Attica Group, who said that ferry operators cannot achieve decarbonization target alone but need a joint effort of port authorities and equipment manufacturers as well.

“Zero is a must – it’s a survival tool – but there is no silver bullet. We are talking about different alternatives including hydrogen, methanol and batteries. 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,” Niclas Martensson, CEO of Stena Line, commented.

“Our customers want it 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,” Patty Rubstello, Assistant Secretary at Washington State Ferries, said.

“We see reducing emissions like safety – it’s expected. 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,” Mark Collins, President & CEO at BC Ferries, pointed out.

“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. But we know gas is probably transitional so we are also studying other technologies,” Georges Bassoul, Director General at Balearia, noted.

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