From new region to new solutions: how European major ferry company transforms its business
In recent years DFDS, one of the largest European ferry companies, has been transformed drastically. The shipping line not only expanded its business to a new region but is constantly looking for innovations and solutions to keep afloat.
For many years, DFDS has been mostly known due to its ferry services in Northern Europe. Three years ago the Denmark-based company entered a brand new market. In 2018 the shipping line added a new Business Unit Mediterranean after purchasing and rebranding U.N. Ro-Ro, the Turkish largest ferry operator.
Therefore, DFDS’s new entity is managed from Turkey and responsible for the company’s network including the lines between Turkey, Italy, Greece, France, and Tunisia. As of today, the Danish company operates a well-developed network of ferry lines in the Mediterranean Sea that is focused on the ports of Yalova in Turkey and Trieste in Italy. Besides expanding its activities to the new regions, DFDS is implementing new solutions and innovations.
The last three years brought a game changer for DFDS services by making it closer to the customers. With the implementation of new online booking systems for shipping lines, both passenger and freight, the company has launched new apps for passengers, drivers and freight customers. Among others, there were implemented the DFDS Spot app that allows online booking of ferry tickets for the Channel services, the MyLogistics customer service website, priority discharge for freight customers, instant quotes for logistics customers.
DFDS participates in the AWARD project (All Weather Autonomous Real logistics operations and Demonstrations), which is financed from the EU funds and is dedicated to the development of automated driving systems for heavy vehicles. It is expected that the heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers will in the coming years develop autonomous vehicles, which will have an advanced sensor and system setup. The project is scheduled to be commenced this year.
Meanwhile, at the beginning of 2021, Volvo Trucks unveiled its first autonomous vehicle. It is called Vera and was developed by the Swedish lorry manufacture in a partnership with DFDS. Vera is expected to deliver freight from a DFDS logistics centre to an APM Terminals port facility in Gothenburg.
Transporting refuse-derived fuel (RDF) is one of the company’s new businesses. RDF is a waste that has been processed and packed in bales so that it can be used as fuel in power plants. In 2018 DFDS successfully tested that kind of delivery. 128 one-tonne bales of waste from Geminor’s waste processing and packaging plant in the UK were transported to Mälerenergi’s power plant in Västerås near Stockholm.
According to DFDS, the company is able to deliver 4,000 tonnes of RDF per shipment and has a license to move 325,000 tonnes per year. Today, it provides access for the refuse-derived fuel industry in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.
Following a zero-emissions trend, DFDS also intend to use ecologically clear fuel itself. In April 2019, DFDS bought a stake in MASH Energy, which produces biofuel from agricultural waste. The nut by-products from Tanzania and India are currently considered as raw materials. Now, Alfa Laval, MASH Energy and DFDS are about to start testing samples of this biofuel at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre in Aalborg. Afterwards, the innovative fuel will be examined on a DFDS vessel.
Hydrogen is another alternative to fossil fuels. DFDS became a part of the group of companies developing a completely hydrogen-powered ferry for its Oslo – Frederikshavn – Copenhagen route. Green hydrogen will be produced by a projected offshore wind energy-powered electrolyser plant in Greater Copenhagen. The vessel with the working name Europa Seaways will have a hydrogen fuel cell system that emits only water.
In addition, DFDS is planning to utilise the power of wind. In 2019 it installed a prototype system, consisting of two 10-metre aluminium sails on the deck of its cargo vessel, Lysbris Seaways. The trial was brought to a premature end by mechanical fault. In spite of this, Paul Woodall, DFDS’s Environment & Sustainability director, told that the positive effect was achieved.