Channel ports and DFDS join forces to decarbonise cross-Channel transport


Seizing on the recent political declaration by the French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, climate neutral cross-Channel transportation moved a step closer last week. The Channel ports and ferry operator DFDS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (pictured) to collaborate on decarbonising maritime traffic on the Dover Straits.

Routes between Dover and France provide 59% of all ferry journeys between the UK and the European Union and carry 33% of the UK’s trade in goods with the bloc. Recognising the vital importance of the route, the recent Anglo-French summit agreed accelerated joint effort to support the establishment of green shipping corridors between the two nations. The largest cross-Channel ferry operator on the route, DFDS, together with the Port of Dover, Port Boulogne Calais, and Dunkerque-Port has grasped this momentum to agree a joint programme of work that will enable the electrification of maritime traffic on the Channel.

This continues the momentum established by the work of the Green Corridor Short Straits consortium to investigate steps to decarbonise the cross-Channel ferry fleet, part-funded by the UK Department for Transport’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition. The project is a collaboration between the Port of Dover, cross-Channel ferry operators, the University of Kent, and other key academic and industry stakeholders. In parallel to work on its energy strategy, the Port of Dover has also launched industry-leading commitments to be Carbon Net Zero for Scope 1 and 2 by 2025 and Scope 3 by 2030.

The initiative will mean that carbon neutral cross-Channel shipping, with zero emission battery-powered electric ferries and charging facilities at the ports, could be a reality by 2030. This would deliver a major boost to achieving the objective of decarbonizing the global maritime sector.

Patrice Vergriete, mayor of Dunkirk, said: “Innovation, alternative mobility, new energy mix, production of green hydrogen, training in professions in the low-carbon sectors of the future, improvement of air quality… Dunkirk has the ambition to implement the first French hub dedicated to decarbonization, in all its dimensions.”

Isabelle Ryckbost, secretary general, European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), said: “Being a partner in the green transition is a top priority for Europe’s ports. There is no time, no money to lose. Greening the shipping sector is both a technological and financial challenge. The best way to go forward is to think, engage, work and invest together. The MoU is a good example. Three ports and a shipping line creating a coalition of the willing to find the best way to effectively cut emissions as soon as possible and avoid stranded assets.”
Dunkerque-Port has established a decarbonisation roadmap outlining its commitments to decarbonise and obtained ECOPORT certification for its best practice sustainable development work. Port Boulogne-Calais is reducing carbon emissions through its environmental planning commitments, including ISO 14 001 certification and it is targeting ISO 50 001 certification for its energy management systems in 2023.

Torben Carlsen, CEO at DFDS, said: “The MoU we have signed outlines our shared ambition to invest in the development and delivery of battery-powered electric or fuel-electric ferries and the infrastructure required to charge them in the ports. We have established a clear timeline and this is a key milestone in our work together to become carbon neutral.”

Doug Bannister, chief executive at the Port of Dover, said: “The commitment by the Port of Dover, DFDS and our French partner ports, together with the ongoing support of our two other ferry operators, puts us in the perfect position to drive the work of the newly announced France-UK taskforce to develop a roadmap toward the deployment of zero emission technology and enabling infrastructure. With 130 ferry movements a day on the world’s busiest shipping lane, this will place the Short Straits at the vanguard of decarbonisation within the global maritime industry.

“Having launched our Targeting Our Sustainable Future programme in 2022, Port of Dover is well on track to achieve net-zero carbon emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by 2025 as we work with our partners to support the transition to zero-emission vessels and a green shipping corridor between the UK and France.”

Benoit Rochet, CEO Port Boulogne Calais, said: “We naturally support our customers, the maritime operators, in cooperation with the Port of Dover, in their energy transition and decarbonization of the Channel. The shared ambition is to move towards carbon neutrality by 2030, which will necessarily involve the design of new generation vessels using propulsion technologies that are more environmentally friendly.”
Maurice Georges, CEO, Dunkerque-Port, said: “We are very pleased with the collective and collaborative work to decarbonize the Channel initiated by DFDS, the ports of Boulogne-Calais, Dover, and Dunkirk. As the first European energy hub, the Dunkirk industrial-port zone will be there to support this major ambition to create a green corridor.”