Channel ferries could be electric within five years

Following calls from COP26 for six green maritime corridors, the Dover-Calais routes have been singled out as obvious places to start the switch to electric ferries.

Plans to create the world’s first zero-carbon ferry routes between Dover and Calais and Dunkirk have been unveiled, with a new generation of electric ferries set to be introduced if the proposals are approved.

The 22-mile crossing could be fully electrified by the middle of the decade as competing operators handling both freight and passenger transport – including DFDS, P&O Ferries and Irish Ferries – have all signed up for support the changes.

In order to make the system work, new industrial-size electric charging points would be installed in each port, which have the capacity to fully charge ships when docked. In addition, it is highly likely that a corollary mandate will be introduced requiring all heavy goods vehicles and passenger vehicles arriving at ports and boarding ferries to also be equipped with low-emission engines. The English Channel is the busiest sea route in the world, with around 400 ships making the crossing to France and mainland Europe every 24 hours.

Earlier this year, the world’s second-largest shipping container line, Maersk, announced plans to drastically reduce port emissions as the industry races to introduce policies that can help achieve net zero. The company is proposing the installation of charging buoys, essentially floating charging stations, which would mean that boats idling offshore and waiting to dock will no longer need to burn fossil fuels and can instead power with clean and renewable energy. Currently, ships can use between three and five tonnes of fuel each day when idling, which can be as much as 10 tonnes for large commercial vessels.

Image credit: Maurice Pehle