Crud Oil: ferries, fuel and Brittany Ferries’ radical new Pegasis

Brittany Ferries steals a march on new emissions rules – and its competitors – with the UK’s first gas-powered ferry.

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Brittany Ferries new Pegasis.

Brittany Ferries’ new Pegasis.

Marine fuel is nasty stuff, literally one step up from bitumen.

Ferries’ saving grace is that their emissions are ameliorated across a large number of passengers. Thanks to that, their environmental performance is competitive with buses, trains and ferries.

In general however it was only a matter of time before the authorities cracked down on shipping emissions.

From 2015, to sail in the North Sea, Baltic or English Channel, all ships must cut fuel’s sulphur content from 3.5% now to 0.1%.

Perhaps predictably, the new EU-inspired limits are much lower than those in the rest of the world. The operators have been making dire predictions: fares will go up, jobs will be cut and even routes withdrawn as they are forced to shoulder higher costs.

Former shipping minister Mike Penning did make some very robust comments to a parliamentary committee about the new rules but has since been moved to the Northern Ireland Office.

Basically the ferry companies have three options: buy low sulphur fuel; use ‘scrubbers’ to remove pollutants from the exhaust gases; or use new, cleaner fuels.

Low sulphur fuel is more expensive due to the extra refining process and, because of that says P&O, not environmentally friendly. Meanwhile it’s not possible to fit up to 60% of the existing shipping fleet with scrubbers while converting them to new fuels is prohibitively expensive.

DFDS and P&O have been trialling scrubbers for some time. Brittany Ferries however has been able to chose the latter option with its massive new Pegasis ship announced today.

To be built in the STX shipyard in St Nazaire, the 210m cruise ferry – the same size as P&O’s recently launched Spirit of Britain – will be powered by sulphur-free Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).

LNG is an increasingly popular marine fuel around the world but this is a first for UK waters on this scale.

Costing some €270m, Pegasis will sail between the UK and Spain with all the usual refinements passengers expect on these hybrid cruise ship/ferries – swimming pool, spa, cinemas, lot of bars and restaurants plus balconies for all cabin suites. There will also be 30 pet-friendly cabins.

Pegasis will enter service from spring 2017. Quite how the other operators will meet the new regulations – or even Brittany Ferries with the rest of its fleet – is not yet completely clear.

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roundup: SWEDEN. New laws on using mobile phones behind the wheel are confusing drivers, and perhaps police too. The law introduced in December says phones or GPS must not be used in a manner ‘detrimental’ to driving. Texting or talking per se is not illegal. ‘We won’t see the practical significance until after a few convictions,’ one traffic officer tells thelocal.se. AUSTRIA. A burned out Bulgarian-registered BMW X5 discovered in a Vienna suburb in the early hours of Saturday morning contained the bodies of two men. Police now say one, an Austrian of Bosnian extraction, died from gunshot wounds while the other, a German, succumbed to injuries sustained in a grenade blast. No gun has been found.

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