Launching more energy efficient solutions and ships, boosting digitalisation and facing Brexit are among the key focuses for five major ferry operator chief executives discussing their views for 2019 at Shippax Ferry Conference.
Tallink Grupp management board member Harri Hanschmidt revealed that the ferry operator has signed an LOI with Rauma Marine Constructions for an LNG dual-fuelled ferry that will be similar to its LNG-fuelled Megastar ferry, “but if possible, a little bigger and better”.
He added “The ships will be similar, but it will have larger LNG tanks, allowing us to be more efficient at bunkering.” The new vessel is slated to be delivered in 2022. A bunkering vessel is being built that will bunker both the new vessel and Megastar.
Mr Hanschmidt said “There is no one silver bullet but through different measures we have achieved 20% in energy efficiency and our goal is to reduce the carbon footprint by 5% each year on the whole fleet.”
Digitalisation is also highly significant for the ferry operator. Mr Hanschmidt said that “If you are not online you are not anywhere. For us, it is really important that all our onboard systems can be online.” He said that customers expected very good bandwidth. Tallink Grupp is rolling out direct beam antennas to give high-speed internet access at sea to all of its vessels.
DFDS launches freight digital solutions
Digitalisation is also crucial for DFDS. DFDS chief financial officer Torben Carlsen said “Digital is a challenge, we have the benefit of having been in the passenger business where the drive for digital solutions is much bigger, but we have ambitions for this on our freight side.”
Indeed, DFDS is launching initiatives in 2019 to make it easier for its business customers to interact with the ferry operator. Mr Carlsen said “They expect the same experience as when they book a flight service as a consumer and we want to deliver that. This requires a number of changes to IT systems. Customers can directly interact and soon they will see big benefits.”
He added “We are also looking into the future with autonomous trucks and trying to understand how this will impact ferry activities. It is very important to make everything surrounding a ferry and port as efficient and autonomous as possible.” He added this was “so relevant” due to competition with road transport and “may call for working with or across the industry.”
The company has also been preparing for Brexit. Mr Carlsen said “Nothing will change our dedication to doing business with the UK, regardless of the outcome. While we hope for a soft Brexit, we are preparing for a hard Brexit.”
He said the company would be helped by weaker currency which reduces its cost base in the UK, but added there is a possibility of changing its ferry structure, including reducing departures.
But he emphasised “Most importantly we have upgraded with talent and assets to make sure we have better capacity to ensure interaction with government bodies to keep [trade] flowing and have upgraded customs clearance expertise to make sure that cargo keeps flowing into and out of UK.”
But he warned “We are concerned – we think have a plan, but it will impact us if ‘hard Brexit’ comes.”
P&O Ferries: “full action mode” for Brexit
Brexit is a priority for P&O Ferries. P&O Ferries chief executive Janette Bell told delegates “For a business that is 100% connected between UK and Europe you can imagine it [Brexit] is quite at the top of my list. We are very clear about our position. As long as people and goods travel, we will continue to offer a complete logistics and ferry service and have been engaging closely with authorities. Despite no clarity we are in full action mode – readying business so that whether hard or soft Brexit, we are able to operate. We are making this our priority.”
Elsewhere, she said the company has embarked on a “major transformation programme and is actively looking to grow our business.” The company has launched three new business units, focused on short routes, overnight routes and freight services (on top of P&O Ferry Masters logistics unit). “We have four business units focused on different sets of customer needs,” said Ms Bell.
The company is in the process of being acquired by DP World from Dubai World (parent company to both). Ms Bell said “I am personally delighted. DP World values us as a best in class integrated logistics provider. I am excited at what we can achieve and the opportunities this opens up for the business.”
BC Ferries: 3.5 years' payback for LNG retrofit
Over in Canada, BC Ferries chief executive Mark Collins highlighted how new and energy efficient technology was a priority. The company has spent US$350M adopting new technology over the last five years to reduce its environmental footprint.
He singled out an example. “The cable ferry might be the oldest technology out there, but we dusted it off and now our ship has 25% higher capacity than previously with same deck space and burns 66% less fuel. This shows that you can take some old things and find new and modern ways to do it.”
Another major focus is underwater radiated noise, to help solve the declining whale population in British Columbia waters. “BC Ferries is the largest producer of underwater radiated noise in coastal areas of BC, so we have a plan that every new ship we build is demonstrably quieter than before.”
Mr Collins highlighted the benefits of using LNG and told delegates that Spirit of Vancouver Island was on its way back from Poland after being retrofitted with a dual-fuel LNG system. “The payback is 3.5 years which is a great number for us, and we get a cleaner ship to boot,” Mr Collins said, explaining that overabundance of LNG in Canada made its price attractive.
Grimaldi Group: ‘massive’ retrofit programme
Elsewhere, Grimaldi Group has undertaken a “massive” investment programme in retrofits over the last few years totalling €500M (US$564M), Grimaldi Group managing director Emanuele Grimaldi said. Eight ships have had rebulb work, 78 vessels silicone paint, eight ships have been lengthened, including Cruise Roma which is being lengthened at Fincantieri and fitted with large lithion ion batteries that have over 5.5 kW an hour to guarantee zero emissions in port. 35 scrubbers have been fitted on 35 ships with the figure to increase to 100 scrubbers on 100 ships.
Mr Grimaldi commented “Our industry has long-term strong ambitions which we believe will lead to the next development of scrubbers and batteries.”
The ship operator is working with manufacturers and a university on a water filtration system that would clean water, filtrate much more [than currently] and collect waste that could be discharged at port.