Hybrid ferries launching

posted on April 02, 2013
Ferry Scotland

Scotland as you’d imagine it: mountainous landscape rich in lush green lawns sharply cutting into the rough and tumultuous sea. With all the sheep and horses grazing and the occasional stunning castle, this is where you might go to evade the hustle and bustle of urbanity with all its dreadful smog, restlessness, and noisiness. But where exactly are we? After all, not all of Scotland falls into our stereotypical description, but these two places do: the Isles of Skye and Raasay, located in the north west of the country. As much as life there is in touch with its traditional, rural roots, in 2011, both islands attracted attention because of an innovative ferry programme: the first hybrid ferry service in the world.

Government invests in hybrid ferries

The project runs in association with the Low Emission Hybrid Ferries Project and received more than 23 million euros from Scottish government funds. The European Regional Development Fund provided a further 520,000 euros.[1] At the end of December 2012, the moment had finally arrived: two ferries operating on a mixture of diesel and electricity took their first cruise from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Raasay. The hybrid technology results in a CO2 emission and fuel reduction of 20% in comparison to normal fuel ferries of the same size.[2] The project has become the pride of Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow, which has finally seen new recruitment and life in its shipyards after a five year period of unemployment. The first of the two ferries, named Hallaig (after a poem written by Sorley Maclean) will be put to service in spring 2013 and the second one (not yet named) in summer 2013. Both are around 45 metres long and can accommodate a maximum of up to 150 passengers and 23 cars.[3] While there have been debates about the actual “greenness” of hybrid technology in general (where does the energy come from to charge the batteries?), the hybrid ferry project took a different direction from its beginning onwards: the ferries are charged overnight and plans are to take the energy required from wind, solar, or wave systems.

Scotland’s leading the way

ferry worker

Scotland has a proud shipbuilding heritage. It is even greater, then, that this tradition is channelled into innovative solutions to tackle problems of pollution and environmental damage. The issue at stake is not a trivial one: 90% of all goods are carried by sea. Maritime emissions are not covered by the Kyoto Protocol and with constantly increasing world trade, this is a problem of the present and will be of the future. The International Maritime Organisation is increasingly pressured into doing something about the problem says Dr. Veronika Eyring, a researcher at the Institute of Physics and Atmosphere in Wessling, Germany. According to her calculations, the global fleet used 280 million tonnes of fuel in 2001 and is expected to reach an overall fuel consumption of 400 million tonnes in 2020.[4] If unstopped, this trend could have a disastrous effect on nature. Taking this perspective, the hybrid ferries in rural Scotland are an example of how to lead the shipping industry in the right direction.

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