CalMac is looking at full electrification, hydrogen and LNG options as well as standardising its fleet – and has highlighted the importance of forming a strong partnership with a shipyard to achieve these goals.
The Scottish ferry operator has two LNG dual-fuelled ferries under construction at Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow. It also has three electric hybrid vessels in its fleet.
CalMac chief executive Martin Dorchester told PST in an exclusive interview that he felt that the natural fit was for batteries for smaller ferries and LNG for larger ferries. The company is particularly interested in batteries as the technology “has moved on hugely” since CalMac’s battery-powered vessels were built.
CalMac has also been working on a hydrogen ferry project with the aim to build a ferry powered by this fuel. The company started the project in 2010 and has been working on it with partners including Ferguson Marine.
CalMac’s plans for its fleet shows how far ferry operators have come when it comes to alternative energy. They are not just looking at one type of fuel, but a mix of different powers to best match the vessel profile and routes.
Its plans also show the importance of building a strong relationship with a shipyard. Ferguson Marine is building the company’s LNG vessels and it also built its hybrid battery ferries. Mr Dorchester said that due to the advances in battery technology they would upgrade the current hybrid vessels once their batteries came to the end of their life. “If your builder is just five minutes down the road [Ferguson shipyard is located close to CalMac] then it is not the big thing it was previously [using shipyards located much further away].”
CalMac is standardising its fleet – and Ferguson Marine will play a crucial role in not just standardising it but also applying different fuels.
Ferguson Marine chief naval architect Chris Dunn told PST “The holy grail is that we can look at advanced requirements for newbuilds like a 50 m and 80 m and say that the 50 m should be a battery-hybrid and the 80 m powered by hydrogen.” He said the aim was to have three or four models that the shipyard could use across the fleet to make it easier to maintain, manage and control the ferries.
I believe that the strong relationship that has been developed between CalMac and Ferguson Marine will be mirrored by other ferry operators – which want to use a mix of different alternative powers across their fleet – and shipyards.