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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 in the last week. The Channel ports and ferry operator DFDS signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to collaborate on decarbonising maritime traffic on the Dover Straits.

Routes between Dover and France provide 59 percent of all ferry journeys between the UK and the European Union and carry 33 percent 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. The collective work that we initiated eight years ago with all the economic actors of the territory is today recognized and supported both by the French State and by the European Commission, within the framework of the Territory of Innovation programs, Low Carbon Industry Zones (ZIBAC) or Climate City Contract in particular. The choice of the maritime routes of the Strait carried by the DFDS group to inaugurate its very ambitious strategy of seeking carbon neutrality for its ferry services is a new recognition, very important in my opinion, of our collective commitment. The commitment of DFDS is also a strong sign given to our populations. It is all together that we must take up the challenge of the climate emergency.”

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.

DFDS is leading change in the maritime and logistics transport sector with a two-step Climate Action Plan. It has a short-term target to reduce relative CO2 emissions from ships by 45 percent by 2030, and a long-term target to become fully climate neutral by 2050. Its commitment to greener transport solutions extends to its logistics activities. It recently put 20 electric trucks on the road, following its record-breaking order of the vehicles, announced in October 2021.

Torben Carlsen, chief executive officer at DFDS, said: “The commitment by DFDS and our partner ports is an important step toward decarbonising cross-Channel transportation. It reflects the urgency of our decarbonisation efforts by committing us to the electrification of maritime traffic on the Channel before 2030. 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. Decarbonising the Channel is critical to meeting our ambitions for net zero as it is one of the sources of the highest emissions and yet provides clear opportunities for the achievement of reductions because of the short crossings involved and our timetable for renewing our cross-Channel fleet.”

Doug Bannister, chief executive at the Port of Dover, said: “Following the Clydebank declaration at the COP26 climate summit in 2021, the Port of Dover and its partners declared an ambition to become the world’s first high-volume green shipping corridor. Now we have the political ambition to match it. 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. The Port of Calais is working with DFDS and its partners to build out the infrastructure to enable environmentally friendly vessels.”

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. This initiative is also fully in line with the Dunkirk region’s decarbonization strategy led by the Urban Community of Dunkirk (CUD) and Euraenergy, of which Dunkerque-Port is a partner.”


Notes to editors

  1. 90 percent of the world’s goods are moved by sea. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) anticipates a doubling of maritime transport flows by 2050. The international maritime sector is responsible for three percent of global carbon emissions – if it were a country, it would be the world’s eighth largest emitter.
  2. DFDS runs six ships on its routes between Dover and France – three on the Dover to Calais service, and three on the Dover to Dunkirk service – with approximately 17,000 crossings made on the routes every year.
  3. France and the UK are signatories to the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shopping Corridors, showing intent to facilitate the establishment of green shipping corridors. The French government has also initiative the France Mer 2030 approach to decarbonise shipping and the UK government has a Clean Maritime Plan.

For further press information, please contact:

Michelle Ulyatt / Adam Toombs / Charlotte Burnap / Karen Bayfield

Roch PR Ltd

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