Interferry urging governments to use carbon tax revenues to invest in shore power

Interferry is calling on governments and electricity utilities to prioritise investment in onshore power supply (OPS) development to support the ferry sector’s transition to electrification and hybridisation.

In a statement issued yesterday (4 April), the shipping association highlighted that the duration of most ferry crossings is between 30 minutes and two hours which it said makes ferries the ‘ship type par excellence’ to use battery technology.

‘Due to the nature of the ferry business, with a myriad of short to medium-long routes, operators around the world are already leading shipping’s charge towards electrification and hybridisation,’ said Interferry CEO, Mike Corrigan. ‘However, to meet the International Maritime Organization’s ambitious decarbonisation targets, more landside power supply is urgently needed.

‘Interferry therefore urges governments and electricity utilities to aggressively invest in the development of OPS infrastructure that will allow ferries to plug in and charge their onboard batteries. Many governments have implemented or will be implementing a carbon tax, so Interferry is urging for some of these tax revenues to be allocated to ports and terminals for electrification purposes.’

Corrigan stressed that using shore-powered onboard batteries instead of fossil fuels to sail between ports will greatly reduce the environmental footprint of ferries, and that operating battery-electric ferries would also mean that the ferry industry ‘doesn’t have to tap into the limited resources of alternative fuels.’ But he warned that governments need to play a pivotal role in supporting electrification of the world’s ferry fleet.

As previously reported, Interferry member Stena Line has designed a future large Ro-Pax vessel powered solely by electricity. However, the association warned that the project ‘stands or falls’ by the availability of OPS infrastructure.

‘Electrical charging infrastructure is critical for us to advance the project,’ said Stena Line CEO Niclas Mårtensson ‘Therefore, we continue our dialogue with authorities and other external stakeholders hoping to move this project ahead.’

Indeed, Interferry maintained that the lack of OPS facilities is a ‘major concern’ not only for operators of large Ro-Pax ferries but also for the many operators of small passenger craft. As an example, it highlighted the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) which operates 17 high-speed passenger-only ferries and is preparing to operate the country’s first fleet of battery-electric ferries. However, the lack of OPS facilities, said Interferry, has proved to be a ‘major limitation’.

‘We have secured the funding necessary to build our first five zero-emission ferries, but we won’t be able to operate those vessels without a significant amount of new shore power,’ said WETA Executive Director, Seamus Murphy. ‘Decarbonising the maritime industry is crucial to achieving our collective climate goals, but to make that happen, we need to focus on delivering more power to our waterfront and it needs to happen quickly.’

According to Interferry, Norway is the ‘exception to the rule’ when it comes to investment in shore power, and has demonstrated that, with a long-term decarbonisation strategy and investment plan, it is ‘perfectly feasible’ to provide OPS capacity where it is required.

‘Operating zero-emission ferries is now a prerequisite to obtaining a route concession from the Public Transportation Authorities,’ said Heidi Wolden, CEO of Norway’s Norled. ‘But electrification of Norway’s domestic ferry fleet is a shared responsibility, with the government financing OPS infrastructure and creating tough competition between ferry companies for zero-emission solutions during the tendering process. Due to politics and backing from government, Norway’s ferry operators are global leaders in maritime decarbonisation.’

Concluding, Interferry’s Corrigan said it is ‘imperative’ that the mass rollout of OPS facilities is ‘urgently’ undertaken to allow ferries to meet national and global greenhouse gas reduction targets.

‘The implementation of carbon-based taxes by many governments – such as the European Union’s recently introduced Emissions Trading System – offers the logical solution we are calling for,’ said Corrigan. ‘Allocating money from these carbon funds can provide the OPS infrastructure that ferry operators need.’

Image: Shutterstock

Rhys Berry