The world’s largest hybrid ship will set sail in 2024

This week, the French transport operator Brittany Ferries revealed that it has ordered the largest hybrid ship in the world for its fleet, marking another significant step toward the decarbonization of the sector. From St. Malo, France, to Portsmouth, England, the 639-foot Saint-Malo will take the place of one of their more aged ships when it becomes operational in 2024. Soon later, a second hybrid ship will join the force.

According to Brittany Ferries, the Saint-Malo will feature a battery with an 11.5 megawatt hour (MWh) capacity, which is about twice as large as the majority of hybrid marine boats now in operation. The ship's hybrid propulsion system, which can run on both battery power and liquified natural gas, is being developed by the Finnish technology company Wärtsilä.

“The extensive battery size will allow the vessels to operate with full power, using both propellers and all thrusters to maneuver emissions-free in and out of ports, even in bad weather. The built-in shore power solution will charge the batteries while berthed,” stated Hakan Agnevall, president and chief executive officer of Wärtsilä.

According to the business, this novel design has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15% when compared to a traditional diesel-powered vessel. With a second, yet-to-be-named ship planned for its route from Caen, France to Portsmouth, England, Brittany Ferries will step up its efforts, the company noted in a statement. This ship will be ready "shortly after" the Saint-Malo. Stena Roro, the shipbuilder, intends to leave space aboard the vessels for renewable improvements like bigger batteries or solar power; the ships themselves will also be upgradeable.

The shipping industry is attempting to find more environmentally friendly ways to fuel the ships, which is difficult given their size and the enormous distances they sometimes have to travel. Wärtsilä is working to build engines that use ammonia rather than fossil fuels in addition to producing hybrid vessels. The completely electric container ship Yara Birkeland entered commercial service in Norway this year with the additional intention of eventually becoming totally autonomous. A number of further developments are also in the works, such as sails that might harness wind energy and use it to drive a ship's motor.