The importance of Onshore Power Supply on our journey towards net zero

To meet national and global greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets taking effect as early as 2030, it is imperative that Onshore Power Supply (OPS) becomes front and centre in maritime policy. The ferry sector is a trailblazer in maritime electrification and hybridisation. Interferry therefore urges governments, port authorities and electricity utilities to prioritise OPS development, allowing for ferries to plug in and charge their onboard batteries.

Ferries provide lifeline and essential services to communities across the globe. A study conducted by Oxford Economics on our behalf revealed that the global ferry industry was similar in size to the commercial airline industry, transporting approximately 4.27 billion passengers per year, plus 373 million vehicles (including cars, buses and trailers).

With a myriad of short to medium-long routes, most ferry crossings take between 30 minutes and two hours, making ferries the prime ship type to adopt battery technology for propulsion. The ferry sector already leads shipping’s charge towards electrification and hybridisation.

To address climate change, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) targets to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping by 20%, striving towards 30%, by 2030. A second milestone on the steep road to net zero by 2050 is a 70% reduction of GHG emissions by 2040, striving for 80%. To meet these ambitious decarbonisation targets, more landside power supply is urgently needed.

Investment in OPS infrastructure is key

OPS facilities are a key instrument in the energy transition of worldwide ferry operations. The shipping sector at large is making significant strides in decarbonisation but soaring demand for renewable and low-carbon fuels will far outstrip supply. Unlike merchant ships, ferries typically cover short-distance routes, warranting battery-electric operations. Propulsion via OPS-charged batteries means that the ferry sector doesn’t have to tap into the limited resources of alternative fuels. Another plus of battery propulsion versus carbon-neutral fuels is the comparatively low energy loss.

Interferry therefore urges governments, port authorities, and electricity utilities to prioritise OPS development, allowing for ferries to plug in and charge their onboard batteries. Many governments have implemented or are about to implement a carbon tax. An example is the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), hailed as a cornerstone of the EU’s policy to combat climate change. We call for a portion of carbon tax revenues to be dedicated to OPS provision.

As long as sufficient OPS infrastructure is missing at the ports and terminals, domestic and international operators remain in limbo with regard to ordering new full-electric or hybrid ferries. To ensure that ferries across the world can continue providing essential lifeline services in a climate neutral way, governments need to play a pivotal role in supporting electrification of the world’s ferry fleet.