Brittany Ferries orders LNG ferry

Brittany Ferries orders LNG ferry

“Brittany Ferries first began thinking about liquefied natural gas propulsion in 2009. Since then, it’s become part of who we are” says Frédéric Pouget, the company’s fleet manager and head of maritime and port operations. Frédéric and his team have spent years investigating LNG propulsion. LNG enables ferry operators to meet international regulatory requirements regarding sulphur oxides (SOx) while reducing other emissions relative to fuel oil, including nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulates, and CO2.

“It was only natural that we should investigate fitting our ships with LNG propulsion. We first looked into retrofitting some of our existing fleet. It was technically feasible, but the cost and the refit times proved insurmountable hurdles. Next, we began thinking about a new LNG-powered ship.”

Designed by STX France

For the design phase, Brittany Ferries turned to long-time partner STX France. The Pegasis, the company’s first LNG ferry project, aimed to replace the Bretagne. However, funding difficulties meant that the project had to be abandoned in 2014. “But we didn’t give up. Even with LNG more expensive than heavy fuel oil and cost comparisons favouring HFO, LNG is still an excellent solution.” Brittany Ferries launched its energy transition plan in 2015. The first step was to equip its fleet of six HFO-powered ships with scrubbers (see Brittany Ferries: now with French scrubbers); the second, to launch the design phase for the Mont St Michel 2.

The new ship will be used on the busy Caen-Ouistreham/Portsmouth route. Once again, Brittany Ferries decided to work with the STX France design bureau. “From the outset, we aimed to specify the design concept as fully as possible. We know our operating constraints and needs, particularly those dictated by the ports we serve. We have the specs for our cabins and shipboard spaces, our passenger and cargo data, and our power and manoeuvrability requirements. This helped us to compile a detailed specification of needs which, in turn, considerably reduced the time needed to choose a shipyard. Because we had the design, all we had to do was compare the bids.”

An original bunkering solution

The Mont St Michel 2 will be 185 metres long for a beam of 31.5m and a draught of 6.5m. She will be slightly larger than the Mont St Michel at 173m x 28.5m x 6.2m. The Mont St Michel 2’s gross tonnage of 42,000t will also be greater than the Mont St Michel’s 35,600t. The new ship will feature an electric motor propulsion system rated at 23,600kW powered by LNG/HFO dual-fuel motors. “Although new to Brittany Ferries, this propulsion configuration is well suited to our operations.”

Once the decision in favour of LNG had been taken, the next question was bunkering and the associated challenges in France. “We’ve given this issue considerable thought as the costs can be significant. Now, with Brexit on the way, we need to be particularly cautious. We rejected a proposal to use a dedicated LNG barge because it was not economically viable. Instead, we believe that we’ve come up with an original solution. The Mont St Michel 2 will carry LNG tanks in containers with pipework linking them to a 250-cubic-metre buffer tank. With this arrangement, our turn-around time will be determined by operations, not bunkering.”

In December 2016, Brittany Ferries signed a letter of intent with the Flensburger Schiffbau Gesellschaft yard in Flensburg, Germany, and will follow up soon with the final contract. The Mont St Michel 2 is expected to join the Brittany Ferries fleet in April 2019.

Translated and adapted by Steve Dyson