Pioneering green ferry design

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The challenge of green traveling

Pioneering green ferry design

The challenge of green traveling

Ferry lines are indispensable in daily travels over waterways and form a vital link between islands and the mainland. Commuting by water is a convenient way of public transport. Ferries connect remote places and are also effective in dense populated city areas, providing fast, reliable and direct connections.

Green Challenges for the ferry industry

The ferry sector is more and more evolving into sustainable transport solutions. Environmental considerations and fuel prices are proven catalysts of a new trend towards electrification. Ferry services are facing challenges of increasing costs, and of the demand for renewable energy-efficient sources. They must provide affordable, sustainable and low-emission transport services. To protect the marine life and ecosystem, remote areas are strictly protected from all sorts of pollution from shipping. In addition, zero-emission solutions are demanded in highly populated areas, due to air pollution. This led to building several new electric vessels and retrofitting existing ones. For short routes or schedules with longer berthing times, electrical ferry solutions have already been developed and implemented in the logistical chain. Standardized designs available to the market provide good results on various routes.

The actual difficulties arise when sailing distances increase and berthing times are shorter. These routes require high speed vessels to achieve acceptable travel schedules. In these demanding situations, the available standard green ferry designs do not provide a feasible solution. Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam serves this niche market and presents its view on this green maritime challenge.

Green Ferry core design challenge

The design process includes an extensive research on the operating profile of the vessel. The route is recorded in a high level of detail and all operational steps are accounted for. This ensures that the energy consumption of the vessel can be estimated with high accuracy over an operating time-domain. Based on the power demand, a proper selection of energy source can be made. Minimizing energy consumption is a key focus point for these sustainable ferry designs. The hull shape, displacement and propulsion layout highly influence the overall power demand.

The energy storage and layout of the ferry creates the core design challenge. Battery systems give some flexibility in the layout and position on board, but for larger capacities a significant volume is required. Matching the battery type with the operational cycle is important. Especially also taking into account the battery performance and lifetime for all scenarios, including extreme weather conditions and emergency situations.

Besides the battery solutions for energy storage, other energy carriers can be considered for specific applications. Hydrogen is one of the possible alternatives, where fuel cells can deliver green electricity to all consumers on board. The energy density and storage volume of hydrogen, challenge the designers in this case. 

In the process of researching the effects of energy and weight optimization, material choice also is key parameter. Currently a lot of ferry designs are built with aluminium hulls, as it is much lighter than a steel hull. The next step in reducing the hull weight is application of other materials, for example carbon. This gives a significant weight saving compared to aluminium, directly reducing the vessel displacement and resistance. As these production methods become more common in the market, the commercial difference between aluminium and carbon is easily bridged by the energy savings in the operation.

In some cases, energy consumption is further reduced by applying more radical technologies, for example foil assistance technology. A typical wing layout reduces resistance significantly, meaning a larger range with the same battery capacity. The downside of these type of solutions is that such a large hull appendage can be vulnerable in shallow waters and port areas.

Green Ferry Pilot Projects

Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam has recently taken the challenge and designed two green ferries. The routes of both vessels required non-standard solutions to match the operational requirements, meaning long distance and severe weather conditions.

The first design resulted in an electric ferry with a state-of-art battery system and optimized hull shape for operating in shallow water areas. As this vessel is intended to operate in a protected ecological area, the propulsion layout was matched with the specific local requirements.

The other design is a double-ended ferry, outfitted with a Hydrogen-powered electrical propulsion system. For this design, the environmental design parameters and route specific requirements resulted in a catamaran shaped hull. The propulsion layout is tailored to the high demand for manoeuvrability at the berthing locations, combined with draught restrictions on the route.

About Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam

Both of these projects proved the possibility to create sustainable solutions for demanding ferry connections. Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam solves maritime challenges for leading shipbuilders and maritime industry players around the globe. We find design and engineering solutions for high performance issues, by providing high end design, engineering and conversion packages for work vessels, ship equipment and operational engineering. 


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Nicky Mayenburg
Nicky Mayenburg

Technical Sales Manager

+31 (0)10 312 6400

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