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Monday, October 21, 2019 

Acknowledging the need to be a leader in the transition to a lower carbon future and eventually net zero emissions, global trade association Interferry's 44th annual conference explored the potential to transform the ferry industry through innovation.

With climate change an issue shared by every ferry operator, the movement away from fossil fuels featured alongside manned and autonomous vessel management systems, shipyard innovations, satellite network advances, a real-time solution for insurance risk analysis and data-based personalisation of the passenger experience.

Keynote speaker ICS secretary general Guy Platten said although shipping was already one of the most environmentally-friendly means of transport, it still had room to improve on emissions. Acknowledging the ferry sector for being "at the bow wave of the latest propulsion revolution", he said: “You are the pioneers in the shipping industry and will light the path. What you do now, the industry will follow. We want to learn from you in order to take the whole industry forward. You can’t do it alone. Ferry operators are more exposed to public perception on emissions. You need the support of consumers, policy makers and financiers – reaching beyond your own community to make sure of an equitable and affordable transition.”

Case studies showcased the seriousness with which the industry takes climate change. Norled, which already operates an all-electric ferry. presented its plans to introduce a hydrogen-fuelled vessel in 2021 and stressed the need for government support. Business development manager Kjell Ove Hatlem said: “The green shift is already there for short routes but not for longer distances. We think liquid hydrogen from clean sources such as wind, water or solar power will be the way.”

An update on another hydrogen-powered project – the EU-sponsored HySeas III consortium in which Interferry is a partner – revealed that the drive train is set to be assembled and tested on land, possibly next February. Other presentations echoed the crucial role of such collaboration in the search for eco-friendly power alternatives. Johan Rostin, CEO of ForSea Ferries, reflected on his company’s switch from diesel-electric to fully electric operation, but hadn't anticipated delays caused by lack of IMO rules on lithium batteries and the need for special crew training.

Roger Holm, Wärtsilä marine business president, said: “The technology for cleaner, more sustainable fuels is more or less there but it’s not connected. We have to talk and cooperate with other sectors, especially in an age when more and more people live near ports.”

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