Hybrid ferries conquer Baltic Sea

2022/09/23 at 12:36 AM

After the several-year-long preparations, the major shortsea shipping lines operating the ferry routes on the Baltic Sea are gradually turning words into deeds in terms of decarbonising their activities. The summer and autumn 2022 have become remarkable in this policy as several new hybrid ferries were put into operation. However, there is one significant nuance.

Two major ferry operators working on the Baltic Sea, Finnlines and Stena Line, have got closer to becoming sustainable. In late September 2022, the Finland-based shortsea shipping line completed the introduction of the three hybrid ferries into its fleet by naming the new vessels. “They are environmentally the most advanced and also the largest ships in the Finnlines fleet,” the company stated. Its brand new ferries are sailing on the routes from Finland to Sweden, Estonia and even further to the Northern Sea.

Karlskrona, Sweden – circa July 2021: Stena Line ferry departing Karlskrona Harbor on sunny day before storm.

Meanwhile, Stena Line, the Sweden-based operator, put into operation the Stena Estelle hybrid ro-pax vessel, the first one of the E-Flexer type, on the Karlskrona-Gdynia route. At the beginning of the month, the ferry entered the Polish port. Two months later, in November, the shipping line will add the second vessel of the same type (Stena Ebba) to its fleet by deploying it on the same route between Sweden and Poland.

Thinking about capacity

In promoting their fleet investments, both ferry operators are focused on sustainability and reduction of their carbon footprint. However, the new vessels have another distinctive feature. They can carry more passengers and freight, by 25-40 per cent more than the previous series. “Stena Estelle is one of the largest ferries in the Baltic Sea in regular operation. It is 240 metres long, offers space for 1,200 people and can accommodate up to 200 trucks on 3,600 metres of car decks,” the Swedish operator noted. The same is about the Finneco vessels. Each ferry of this type has a cargo capacity of 5,800 lane metres, equivalent to around 400 semi-trailers. As a result, one Finneco unit can move up to 300 trucks, 200 cars and 1,100 passengers.

Finneco hybrid ro-pax vessel, source: Finnlines.

Both ferry companies consider that the new ships will have great success in the region. “The Baltic Sea is an economic area that is still characterised by dynamic growth. Customer demand is growing on a daily basis… We are even more convinced that the success of the last years in this region has only been a start”, said Niclas Mårtensson, CEO of Stena Line, at the ceremony in the Port of Gdynia, which took place earlier this month.

Hybrid? Not now

And what about being hybrid as both ferry operators often highlight? Currently, we can talk about improved efficiency of the E-Flexer and Finneco ro-pax vessels. For instance, Stena Line notes that each E-Flexer ferry consumes 30 per cent less fuel than the other company’s vessels. Regarding the declared hybridness, this feature was designed for the future. The Finneco ships are equipped with batteries for smooth and zero-emission mooring while the E-Flexer units can be converted to the battery-, LNG- or methanol-powered hybrid vessels. As for today, some features already make the ferries environmentally-friendly. It is the use of solar energy. Thus, the batteries, installed on the Finneco vessels, are charged when sailing from the solar panels with a total area of 600 square metres.

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