Largest hybrid ship in the world to transport passengers between the UK and France

An artist’s impression of Saint-Malo at sea. According to Brittany Ferries it will have a battery capacity of 11.5 megawatt hours.

Brittany Ferries

A ship destined to transport passengers between the UK and France in the coming years will be the biggest hybrid ship ever built, according to operator Brittany Ferries.

In a statement on Tuesday, the company said the Saint-Malo vessel would have a battery capacity of 11.5 megawatt-hours. This, the company added, was “approximately double what is typically used for hybrid propulsion on marine vessels.”

Brittany Ferries said the ship is expected to be delivered in 2024. A second hybrid will join its fleet soon after, traveling between Portsmouth and Caen.

The idea behind hybrid ships is that they can run on liquefied natural gas (a fossil fuel), battery power, or a combination of the two.

Brittany Ferries said a total of three hybrid ships were being built by Stena RoRo using hybrid technology from Finnish company Wärtsilä.

“The extensive battery size will allow the vessels to operate at full power, using propellers and thrusters to maneuver emission-free in and out of ports, even in bad weather,” said Hakan Agnevall, CEO of Wartsila.

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Maritime transport is no different from other types of mobility as it has a considerable environmental footprint.

According to Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based campaign group, ships represent “a significant source of oil consumption and emissions in the EU”.

Citing Eurostat’s data analysis, T&E adds that in 2019 EU maritime transport consumed “12.2% of all transport fuel”.

Elsewhere, the International Energy Agency says international shipping was responsible for about 2% of the planet’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.

With growing concern for sustainability and major economies and companies around the world looking to reduce emissions and achieve net zero targets, the industry will need to find new ways to reduce the environmental footprint of its operations.

The task is enormous. Earlier this year, the CEO of shipping giant Moller-Maersk admitted to CNBC that switching to “green” fuels would come at a cost, but stressed the importance of focusing on the big picture rather than short-term pain.

Soren Skou’s comments came a day after his company said it wanted the entire business to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2040, 10 years ahead of its previous target.

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