Trade association Interferry stages its 42nd annual conference in Split, Croatia, next month with an agenda highlighting the income and savings potential in three key areas – the customer experience, ship technologies and safety issues including cyber-security.

The event runs from October 7-11 and is on course for record attendance with some 300 delegates already registered among member and non-member operators and suppliers. “I think the high level of interest is a response to the pace of change in our industry,” suggests Interferry CEO Mike Corrigan. “Ferries are already a major economic driver in trade and travel, but it’s tough to stay fully in tune with the latest challenges and opportunities, particularly with so much new technology to understand. As a platform for sharing sector-specific expertise and experience, the conference underlines our belief that all stakeholders can be even stronger by working together.”


Safety management: saving money as well as lives

Boardroom engagement and morale-boosting workforce empowerment is crucial to a safer working environment – and good for the bottom line thanks to reductions in injuries, damage, time loss incidents and staff turnover. This keynote message will be delivered by John Wright, managing director of safety consultancy and training specialist WrightWay, whose clients include ferry, cruise, container and bulk shipping companies. 

His case studies will feature a major ferry operator currently saving two million dollars a year on hull & machinery insurance after a 50% reduction in premiums over eight years – a 3:1 return on investment. “It’s been said that developing a safety culture is like walking up a down escalator,” he notes. “The moment you stop walking, you find yourself at the bottom again. Continuous effort and leadership training is required to make it to the top and stay there.”

Meanwhile ship operators urgently need to consider a new threat – cyber piracy – as part of their overall safety management according to Patrick Rossi, maritime cyber security manager at classification society DNV GL. ”Cyber attackers are gaining ground by migrating from standard office IT to industrial control systems, which now includes industry-specific operational technology in the less conventional space of shipping,” he warns. “They are infiltrating themselves through vulnerabilities in the software-dependent systems and low staff awareness. Disruptions can lead not only to significant financial and logistical impacts but also to loss of life and property as well as environmental damage. The maritime industry has faced conventional piracy for centuries, but is it well prepared for this 21st century version?”

His presentation will outline recent trends and industry-wide collaboration on the issue; explore the options and challenges in managing cyber risks for both existing ships and newbuilds; and give examples of cost-effective countermeasures to regain control of operations in the event of an attack.

In other safety sessions, an update on passenger ship initiatives will be delivered by European Maritime Safety Agency executive director Markku Mylly, and there will also be an introductory discussion by members of Interferry’s new Domestic Ferry Safety Committee, which has been formed to drive improvements in developing nations.

Powering the future: fuel, propulsion and fast ferries   

Among ship technologies sessions, a world leader in renewable marine energy sources will set out the ‘game-changer’ financial, environmental and safety case for electrification of ferries as an effective  alternative to low sulphur diesel, LNG conversion or scrubber systems. 

Brent Perry, CEO of Plan B Energy Storage, observes: “For an industry consistently unsettled by the fluctuating price of fuel, the ability to reduce or eliminate fuel costs and meet emissions goals is extremely appealing. A simpler, proven solution is to hybridize a vessel – optimizing diesel use and reducing emissions by up to 75% – or in some cases to convert the vessel to full battery operation and eliminate emissions altogether. With advances in technology, it is possible to appropriately size a battery to provide the fully electric run time required by most routes, with only the longest coastal routes requiring a hybrid solution.” 

Reviewing latest developments, Mr Perry will examine how the advent of liquid cooling on lithium ion batteries allows heavier use, faster charging times, longer lifespan and reduced fire risk. He will also explain a money-saving breakthrough allowing batteries to be re-cored with new cells rather than replacing the entire unit when the existing cells are life-expired.   

Further energy alternatives and emerging propulsion innovations will be discussed by an industry-wide panel of operator, manufacturer and classification society representatives. Another session will explore the future of fast vehicle ferries, with input from leading yards Austal and Incat on what cutting-edge technologies can offer to ensure the sector’s economic viability.     

The customer experience

Digitalization and Big Data will be the buzzwords in a wide-ranging series of presentations and panel discussions examining the link between building the customer experience and enhancing profits. The line-up of speakers ranges from operators and satellite communications providers to academics and marketing professionals.    

Among their specialist topics, they will explain how:

  • digitalisation assists the seamless integration of intermodal travel
  • a digital approach to optimising vessel operation helps to improve customer satisfaction
  • mobile phone and internet connectivity empowers and influences passengers
  • social media enables direct targeting and interaction with specific customer segments      
  • data mining is key in the ‘one size does not fit all’ quest to satisfy different demographic needs

In the final discussion, CEO’s from four distinctly varied ferry companies will share their initiatives to enhance and monitor the customer experience at every touch point from booking and check-in to onboard facilities and post-trip feedback.      

The 2017 Interferry conference speakers program on October 9-10 is the centerpiece of a five-day agenda from October 7-11 that includes a comprehensive schedule of networking and social events. 

Full details are at