Reducing emissions

What is a seawater scrubber?

What is it?

A scrubber is a piece of machinery fitted to each engine on a ship in order to 'wash' the exhaust gases being created. It costs around £10 million pounds per ship to have these scrubbers fitted and we are fitting them to six of our cruise ferries: Normandie, Cap Finistère, Barfleur, Mont St Michel, Pont-Aven and Armorique. A scrubber has to be fitted to each engine so the ships will have multiple scrubbers - Normandie and Pont-Aven will each have seven!

What does it do?

A scrubber basically acts like a catalytic converter on a car. The exhaust gases from each of the engines pass through the scrubber where they are 'washed' by seawater. When the polluting sulphur oxides in the exhaust gases interact with the seawater, the seawater neutralises the sulphur oxides and creates sulphates, which are not considered a pollutant. As well as neutralising the sulphur oxides, scrubbers also remove around 70% of particulate matter, which is harmful to health.

The exhaust gases that are expelled after going through a scrubber are mainly water vapour. This is expelled at around 15°C so on a cold day it might look like smoke as it condenses, but, rest assured, it isn't!

Why are we fitting them to our ships?

Limiting sulphur emissions

During 2015 and early 2016 we are spending £60 million fitting these scrubbers to comply with recent EU regulations designed to reduce pollution by shipping. In 2006, emissions containing 3.5% sulphur content were allowed but this was reduced to 1% in 2010 and has now been reduced to 0.1% in 2015.

Those ships which don't yet have scrubbers fitted are using low sulphur diesel fuel so that the entire fleet limits harmful emissions as much as possible.

European Union support for installation of scrubbers

Connecting Europe Facility of the EU

The European Union supported the installation of DeepBlueLAB TM exhaust gas cleaning systems on board three ships.

In 2014 Brittany Ferries successfully applied to the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility. This programme co-finances investment projects where the environmental footprint is significantly reduced below the emissions thresholds fixed by Community and international environmental regulation. 
The two funded projects are related to the international regulation MARPOL Annex VI and the EU Directive 2016/802 which set limits on atmospheric sulphur oxide emissions (SOx):

  • The Action 2014-EU-TM-0723-M  (Study and deployment of integrated gas & water cleaning system and biofuel-MGO blend for Atlantic Corridor upgrade) supported the installation of a new composite scrubber on board Mont St Michel which operates between Portsmouth and Caen.
  • The Action 724-EU-TM-0724-W (Installation of gas & water cleaning system for the upgrade of the Atlantic Arc) supported the deployment of innovative Exhaust Gas and Water Cleaning System (EGWCS) on board Pont-Aven and Armorique on routes linking Cork, Roscoff and Plymouth.

Results so far exceed the required standards, demonstrating a reduction of 70% in sulphur emissions within the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) compared to the MARPOL standard in force.

Once the scrubbers have finished being fitted we will have reduced our sulphur emissions by 97% in the last decade!

What about CO2 emissions?

Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to global warming and there is no escaping the fact that any form of transport, which burns fossil fuel, emits CO2. However, ferries are overall more CO2 efficient than many other forms of transport.

We try to minimise CO2 emissions in a number of ways:

  • To minimise fuel consumption and the resulting CO2 emissions on overnight crossings, we reduce speed
  • We take into account the effects of tides and the wind and make the most of these natural helpers so that our ships are always sailed in a way that optimises fuel efficiency
  • We use the very latest silicon-based, low-toxicity, anti-fouling paints on our hulls which boost fuel efficiency as they help to improve the ship's flow through the water
  • And, we've even made the air conditioning systems on board all our ships more efficient, which has reduced CO2 emissions by a few percent

What about our onshore emissions?

Whenever we refurbish our offices or consider a new-build, we always try to make them as energy efficient as we can, including using recycled materials. Our head office in Plymouth has lighting which is activated by movement so that the lighting switches off when areas are not in use and it adjusts its brightness according to the amount of daylight. We've also fitted solar panels to our office in Portsmouth. 

Over the past 3 years we have reduced the number of tonnes of CO2 generated by our UK offices by 10.6% from 558.33 to 499.25 tonnes. 

Low emission vehicles

Brittany Ferries has signed the EV Fleet Pledge and we are a Motorvate member, following a review with the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) as part of the 'Plugged-in Fleets Initiative 100'. This means that, with OLEV's support, we are working towards replacing our company vehicles with electric vehicles. We have already made our port vehicle in Poole electric and plan to replace vehicles at other ports in the near future. 

We are planning to install a charging point for electric cars at Portsmouth.