Norwegian travel operator The Fjords – jointly owned by Fjord1 and Flåm – has unveiled its second battery-powered ferry built of carbon fibre this year and I am sure this material will grow more common in the ferry sector.
Carbon fibre is more usually deployed within fast ferry construction but The Fjords has broken the mould as it has launched two battery-powered ferries constructed out of carbon fibre. Its ferries are not high speed and I believe that they kickstart a trend for a widespread use of carbon fibre within the ferry sector.
The main reason for this is that the use of batteries is becoming more commonplace within the ferry sector to meet increasingly strict legislation and carbon fibre provides a strong complement to the use of batteries because of the weight saving it provides.
Norwegian’s Brødrene Aa shipyard built The Fjords’ first two ferries Vision of the Fjords and Future of the Fjords. The family-owned shipyard is now the biggest carbon-fibre fast ferry producer in the world.
As it was explained at a press viewing of Future of the Fjords in May, carbon fibre’s low density means that fewer batteries are needed for a longer range. And fewer batteries also reduces vessel weight and contributes to a lower price for the vessel. There is also a shorter charging time. All these factors will be very attractive to other ferry operators who want to build battery-powered ferries.
There are other advantages to using this material for building ferries. Because of the lightweight qualities of carbon fibre, ferries will have reduced fuel costs and reduced CO2 and NOx emissions. Its high strength but low density mean that there are reduced maintenance costs and a high second-hand value can be commanded.
One challenge to using carbon fibre for The Fjords’ ferries is that class-approved vessels with batteries had so far all been constructed in aluminium or steel, so existing rules needed to be adapted. This was one of the main discussions The Fjords had with class society DNV GL when Vision of the Fjords was being built. This has set a precedent and will smooth the way for other ferry operators to use carbon fibre and batteries.