P&O Takes Delivery of World’s Largest Double-Ended Hybrid Ro-Ro Ferry
P&O Ferries has taken delivery on the first of two new Fusion Class ferries which are the first and world’s largest double-ended ferries. Built in China at the Guangzhou Shipyard International, a division of CSSC, the vessels are set to establish several industry firsts for their size, luxury, and their hybrid power capabilities. The P&O Pioneer, the first of the two ferries, departed Nansha, China earlier today bound for Singapore on the first leg of its delivery voyage to the UK.
P&O ordered the Pioneer and her sister ship Liberte, due for delivery in June 2023, in 2019 hailing them as the first of a new generation of super ferries that would transform the customer experience. At 47,394 gross tons and 756 feet in overall length, they are the largest ferries of their kind designed to replace older vessels on the route between Dover, England and Calais, France. They increase both the passenger and freight capacity on the busy route.
One of the unique elements of the design is that they are the largest double-ended ferries meaning that the vessels do not need to maneuver and turn around at each terminus, which P&O says will make the trips faster and more efficient. There are duplicate bridges at each end of the vessel, a design similar to much smaller coastal and inland ferries. They are the first ever to be outfitted with two 7500 kw Azipods at each end. With this unique configuration, the ships are capable of operating at a speed of 20.8 knots.
The ships were also outfitted with large-capacity batteries. There are a total of four battery rooms aboard with a total of 1,160 large-scale batteries. The maximum storage capacity is 8.8 megawatts. The ships have the capability both to use shore power and to recharge the batteries while underway. While underway excess power from the shaft generators will be used to recharge the batteries while the power system also ensures a consistent power supply removing peaks and valleys to maximize energy efficiency.
There is also a high degree of automation through the vessels’ systems. Guangzhou says there are over 12,000 alarm points built into the systems. The shipyard likes to highlight that the vessels can instantly switch between diesel and batteries at the push of a single button.
The shore power capabilities created a bit of a controversy in the UK where some of the newspapers highlighted that neither Dover nor Calais currently has the shore power capabilities to power the ships. P&O ferries denied the reports they built the ships without consulting with the ports saying they did not anticipate in the early years that the vessels would operate at complete zero emissions and be charged in-port.
The ships can carry 1,500 passengers with more than 100,000 square feet of space devoted to the travelers. The amenities include restaurants, bars, a gym, a children’s area, and relaxation and entertainment areas. The passenger areas include a large, curved glass wall on each side of the ship providing 180-degree views. The ship also has space for 700 vehicles and a comfortable room for the drivers to relax during the voyage.
The launch of the new vessels is part of the company’s efforts to rebuild passenger and community relations after the disastrous episode in 2022 when they fired their crews to replace them with lower-cost contract labor. Rumors were started in the UK that the new ships were another step to downsize the workforce which P&O was forced to deny. When the ships were ordered P&O also had options for two sister ships.
P&O Ferries highlights the introductions are part of a broader strategy to expand capacity on their main routes. In February, they also announced a new agreement with Finnlines where they will be operating the chartered Finnpulp (11,600 dwt) ro-ro cargo ship three days a week between Zeebrugge, Belgium and Teesport, England for P&O Ferries. On the other days, the vessel will sail to Ireland for Finnpulp. The vessel adds a capacity for 225 trailers on the route and P&O Ferries will be providing stevedoring and ship handling services for the ship as part of the freight services partnership.
Guangzhou notes that these are the first large ferries built in China for the UK. The company believes the unique designs will revolutionize the luxury ferry market.