Scotland Gets World’s First ‘Hybrid’ Ferries

How can an oceangoing ship be a hybrid?

It can’t — at least not fully. But while a ship may not recover energy from the brakes like a hybrid car, it can be propelled by a hybrid system of diesel electric and battery power that will significantly reduce carbon emissions.

image via Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited

That’s what is happening in Scotland.

Ferguson Shipbuilders will construct the world’s first hybrid ferries in a deal worth more than $32 million (£20 million), the Scottish government said. Though claimed as such, we’ve certainly seen similar examples of related types of boats going green – such as a planned solar passenger ferry in China or the New York City based Hornblower Hybrid.

“The two new ferries will come into operation in 2013,” said Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure & Capital Investment.  The ships will carry passengers and cars on many of the short crossing routes around the Clyde and Hebrides.

The two ferries will each accommodate 150 passengers and 23 cars, with a service speed of nine knots. Small diesel generator sets will power the vessels, feeding power to a 400-volt switchboard, which will supply power to electric propulsion motors that turn the propellers. In addition the battery banks will provide at least 20% of the power to operate the vessel.

The ferries will charge overnight while they are moored on the islands they will serve. In the future, wind, wave or solar systems may charge the batteries, further reducing the carbon footprint.

Alex Neil lauded the job-creation aspect of the deal for the Glasgow shipyards, which have not fully built and delivered a commercial ship in four years.

“The deal will not only secure around 75 existing jobs in the Port of Glasgow and Inverclyde area, but create around 100 more,” Neil said. “In addition, we expect Ferguson Shipbuilders to create around 20 new apprenticeships directly as a result of this contract.”

The contract for building the two hybrid vessels was advertised in the European Journal and won competitively by Ferguson Shipbuilders against strong foreign competition. The shipbuilder was chosen by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, which developed the detailed specification of the new ferries.