Technology · June 23, 2022

The world’s largest hybrid ship, carrying passengers between the UK and France

Artist’s impression of the Saint-Malo at sea. According to Brittany Ferries, the battery capacity will be 11.5 megawatt hours.

Brittany Ferries

A ship set to carry passengers between Britain and France over the next few years will be the largest hybrid ship ever built, according to operator Brittany Ferries.

In a statement Tuesday, the company said the Saint-Malo ship will have a battery capacity of 11.5 megawatt-hours. This, the company added, is “roughly double what is typically used for hybrid propulsion in seagoing vessels.”

Brittany Ferries said the ship is due for delivery in 2024. A second hybrid will join its fleet shortly thereafter, operating between Portsmouth and Caen.

The idea behind the hybrid vessels is that they can run on liquefied natural gas (a fossil fuel), battery power, or a combination of both.

Brittany Ferries said Stena RoRo is building a total of three hybrid ships using hybrid technology from Finnish company Wärtsilä.

“The extensive battery size will allow the vessels to operate at full power, using both propellers and all engines to maneuver in and out of ports with zero emissions, even in inclement weather,” said Hakan Agnevall, CEO of Wartsila.

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

Maritime transport does not differ from other forms of mobility in that it leaves a significant ecological footprint.

According to Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based campaign group, ships represent “a significant source of oil consumption and emissions in the EU”.

Citing analysis of data from Eurostat, T&E adds that shipping consumed “12.2% of total fuel consumption” in the EU in 2019.

Elsewhere, the International Energy Agency says international shipping was responsible for around 2% of the planet’s energy-related carbon emissions in 2020.

With growing sustainability concerns and major economies and companies around the world looking to reduce emissions and reach net-zero targets, the sector needs to find new ways to reduce the environmental footprint of its operations.

The task is huge. Earlier this year, the CEO of shipping giant Moller-Maersk admitted to CNBC that switching to “green” fuels would come at a cost, but stressed the importance of focusing on the big picture rather than short-term pain.

Soren Skou’s comments came a day after his company announced that the entire company aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2040, 10 years ahead of its previous target.