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English Channel ferries could be electric within the next five years

Following COP26’s calls for six green shipping corridors Dover-Calais routes have been earmarked as obvious places to start the switch to electric ferries.

Plans to create the world’s first zero-carbon ferry routes between Dover and Calais and Dunkirk have been unveiled, with a new generation of electric ferries set to be introduced if the proposals receive approval. 

black and gray bus seats

The 22-mile crossing could be fully electrified by the middle of the decade, as rival operators in charge of both freight and passenger travel – including DFDS, P&O Ferries, and Irish Ferries – have all signed up in support of the changes. 

In order to make the scheme work, new industrial-sized electric charging points would be installed at each port, which have capacity to fully recharge ships while docked. In addition, it is highly likely that a corollary mandate will be introduced requiring all heavy goods and passenger vehicles arriving at ports and boarding ferries to also run on low emission engines. The English Channel is the world’s busiest shipping lane, with around 400 vessels making the crossing to France and mainland Europe every 24-hours. 

Earlier this year the world’s second-largest shipping container line, Maersk, announced intentions to dramatically lower portside emissions as the industry races to introduce policies that can help achieve net zero. The company is proposing the installation of charging buoys, essentially floating charge points, which would mean boats idling offshore and waiting to dock will no longer need to consume fossil fuels and instead can power themselves with clean, renewable energy. Currently, vessels can use between three and five tonnes of shipping fuel each day while idling, increasing to 10 tonnes for large commercial boats.

Image credit: Maurice Pehle

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