Decarbonising Scotland’s ferries on the route to Net Zero

Kevin Hobbs, Chief Executive of CMAL

Last month we provided evidence to members of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport (NZET) Committee regarding a modern and sustainable ferry service for Scotland. We’ve shared the video of the committee meeting on our website, but wanted to take this opportunity to share an insight on some of the work we are currently doing to decarbonise Scotland’s ferries and infrastructure.

The maritime sector is estimated to contribute around 3% of emissions globally, so it is essential for the next generation of vessels and harbours to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. As global technology advances in ferry decarbonisation, we will adopt new technologies for both vessels and infrastructure to further reduce harmful emissions. Even future vessels will be designed to enable retrofitting as new technologies are introduced.

We are already investigating and adopting alternative fuels. In fact, our vessel engineers were responsible for introducing the world’s first diesel-electric hybrid ferries, MV Hallaig (2012), MV Lochinvar (2014) and MV Catriona (2016). This technology enables the three vessels to operate on batteries for 30% of each working day.

However, a step change is fast approaching. The next tender for small vessels will be fully electric – operating for 100% of the day on battery power and plugging into the grid overnight to charge. We are currently finalising the concept designs for an initial seven small ferries (Phase 1) followed by a further three small ferries (Phase 2) and we’ll keep you updated on progress.

While technology is advancing at pace, there is currently no perfect solution to attaining Net Zero within our major ferries fleet. However, incremental progress is definitely being made via innovative design, hull form, propulsion technologies and adoption of battery solutions. Our latest orders for four major vessels currently being built at Cemre Shipyard in Turkey will be able to carry either 40% more cargo vehicles, or 30% more cars, while using 30% less energy than the current vessel MV Finlaggan. Not only does this help us progress towards our Net zero targets but it will also greatly increase capacity for these routes.

We are also currently scoping the role of an Environmental Manager, a key new position within the CMAL team. This manager will strengthen our processes in measuring, recording and reporting on our primary and secondary emissions.

CMAL’s ambitions are aligned with the Scottish Government targets to achieve Net Zero by 2045, and we will continue to research and implement new methods and technologies to decarbonise our Scottish ferry fleet.

March Newsletter—Behind the scenes →