The Green Ferry Vision
One of the ‘greenest’ islands on the planet, picturesque Aeroe in southern Denmark, is working on plans for a unique type of ferry that could provide environmental inspiration on a global scale. At the heart of the project is a steering group which includes Henrik Hagbarth Mikkelsen, a graduate of the Class of 2005 of the Executive MBA in Shipping and Logistics (the Blue MBA), Copenhagen Business School.
The project involves replacing traditional ferries with vessels powered by stored energy from wind turbine, which would reap big efficiency savings in serving the island, lauded in tourist literature for its “fairy-tale charm.”
Aeroe, which boasts that it is the sunniest island in Denmark, is just 30km by 8km, but it has the world’s largest thermal solar plant for heating and storage, and is an exporter of wind power.
Working on the principle that small is beautiful, Mr Mikkelsen has collaborated with other specialists with solid shipping and technical competencies to draw up a blueprint for substituting the three ferries currently operating, each of which is manned by five people, with four smaller ferries each run by only three crew.
The scheme would have a big impact regionally – the three conventional ferries transport around 600,000 passengers and 170,000 cars to and from the island, located by the Baltic Sea – and be closely watched internationally for its adaptability for crossings in other waters.
The conventional ferries were designed at a time when oil prices were less than a third of what they are now, and their size was guided by parameters of safe manning and economy of scale. According to Mr Mikkelsen and his co-workers, this made the ferries rather large for their task. The island routes take in many areas of shallow water; and service needs to be provided during winter when there is low demand. Logistics combined with pricing has proven an expensive cocktail, forcing fares up and depressing demand further.
Smaller ferries would offer better possibilities of scaling the operation to variations in demand. They would reduce fuel consumption drastically as a new, slimmer design would account much better for water resistance in shallow and narrow channels. Safer ship design and manning practices would allow for a lower crew ratio per passenger.
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