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Brittany Ferries and the Environment

A respect for the marine environment that runs deep

Mont St Michel, cruise ferry

As a company founded by farmers, largely owned by farmers and based in Brittany, an area with a rich maritime history, there are few organisations with a more profound respect for the environment and a deeper understanding of the need to preserve scarce resources.

It goes without saying that we not only adhere rigorously to the latest environmental regulations, but often anticipate them which is why we were using fuel with a lower sulphur content than the 2.5% level prior to 2006 when this was imposed as a legal requirement.

Responsibility through the deployment of technology & design

We have always taken the view that the most effective course of action to protect the environment is to invest in the latest, most efficient and therefore cleanest technology. We have one of the most modern fleets on the Channel and the newest ship - Armorique - delivered in spring 2009 was designed to exceed all current and known future regulations concerning emissions.

The hulls of our ships have been designed for optimum efficiency in terms of both comfort and performance. To reduce the impact of roll in heavy swell all vessels are fitted with stabilizer fins - wings that can be rotated to create a lift effect. These are located each side of the ship and act together to minimise the roll and their movement is computer controlled to take account of the swell and ship's speed.

Limiting CO2 emissions

Our entire operation is planned to minimise fuel consumption and therefore CO2 emissions by reducing speed on overnight crossings. The effects of tides and the wind are taken advantage of in the way that our ships are driven in order to optimise fuel efficiency.

As a means of transport, ferries overall are more CO2 efficient than airlines. The UK Government website quotes 130.4 g/ CO2 per passenger km for a short-haul flight and an average of 115.2 g/ CO2 per passenger km for a large RoPax ferry. See:

Marco Polo - Taking freight traffic off the roads

Marco Polo is the European Union's funding programme for projects which shift freight transport from the road to sea, rail and inland waterways.

This means fewer trucks on the road and thus less congestion, less pollution, and more reliable and efficient transport of goods. Brittany Ferries is part of this "motorway of the seas" programme where it is estimated that every Euro of Marco Polo funding generates social and environmental benefits worth 6 Euros or more.

By mixing freight and passenger traffic, Brittany Ferries makes optimum use of the available capacity and this high level of efficiency reduces the environmental impact of the operation overall.

The European Commission has determined that the external costs (those representing the construction, operation and environmental costs of a form of transport) to move 1 tonne a distance of 1 kilometre are:

  • Road: 0.035 Euros
  • Rail: 0.015 Euros
  • Inland waterways: 0.010 Euros
  • Shipping: 0.009 Euros

Thus, shipping is by far the least demanding mode of transport on the environment

Limiting harmful gases

But it is not simply CO2 emissions that are of concern. All ships produce harmful nitrogen and sulphur compounds but new rules limiting sulphur emissions in the Channel come into force in January 2015. Brittany Ferries' response to this is to embark on an ambitious £60 million investment programme by fitting "scrubbers" to remove sulphur dioxide from exhaust gases.

We have replaced all ozone-depleting coolants throughout the fleet and we do not use any ozone-depleting halon gases in our fire-extinguishing systems. 

Water discharge policy

All vessels are equipped with approved water treatment units and discharge only uncontaminated water into the sea outside a minimum distance of 3 nautical miles from the coast. All water polluted by chemicals such as oil is pumped ashore and disposed of by certified waste disposal contractors whom we periodically check to ensure that they are in full compliance with local and government environmental regulations.

Solid waste management

Solid waste such as plastics, glass, metals, etc, is sorted and compacted on board for re-cycling or disposal by a certified contractor on land.

Painting the underside of our ships

We use the very latest anti-fouling paints (coating the submerged parts of our hulls) that are very low in toxicity and are experimenting with silicon-based paints which have the added advantage of improving the ship's flow through the water thus improving efficiency and limiting CO2 emissions.

Our environmental responsibilities continue ashore

Where offices have been refurbished or newly built the aim of achieving maximum energy efficiency has been embraced together with maximum utilisation of furnishings made of re-cycled materials. For example, in our recently refurbished head office in Plymouth lighting is activated by movement so that areas that are not being used switch off automatically and the level of lighting is adjusted to take account of how much daylight there is. In Portsmouth solar panels have been fitted to the office building.

Over the past 3 years we have reduced the number of carbon units used at our UK offices by 11.6% from 641,559 to 567,174.

Raising awareness of environmental issues

The company has joined forces with leading marine conservation charity ORCA to offer passengers a fascinating insight into the whales and dolphins of the Bay of Biscay - one of the world's most important habitats for these amazing animals. This partnership involves ORCA's wildlife education officers living and working on board Brittany Ferries' crossings to Spain right through the summer and autumn. Not only are they on hand to help passengers make sightings of whales and dolphins and identify any animals encountered, but they also give fun and informative presentations about these highly complex and intelligent mammals, and the delicate ecosystems they inhabit.

Furthermore, Brittany Ferries participates in many research projects, for example, by collecting sea-water samples to monitor plankton levels and taking readings of sea-temperature to assist scientists in assessing the effects of global warming.

In addition, the company is also helping the University of Exeter carry out research on bat migration through the detector devices which were installed on the mast of Pont-Aven in August 2013 and are still in place today. Professors at the University are continually analysing the data collected from our bat detectors, to find out when and where bats are recorded at sea.

In December 2013, a Nathusius Pippistriel (a bat no bigger than a human thumb) was discovered near the coast in Friesland, The Netherlands, with a tag in it that identified where it had started its voyage - Blagdon near Bristol. This discovery revealed that bats are evidently flying over the sea to reach mainland Europe. Therefore, it has become all the more clear how valuable Brittany Ferries' support in the data collection of the movement of these tiny mammals could be.

Doctor Fiona Matthews from the University of Exeter says "With so much water to cover, finding bats offshore is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are some very old historical records made by ships' captains of flocks of bats at sea: what we now need to find out is whether bat migration is a regular event and what routes they take."

To find out more visit the University of Exeter website.

Promoting Sustainable Tourism

It is often overlooked that France is a holiday destination that adheres to the principle of sustainable tourism more than most others:

  • It is close to the UK so you don't have to burn too much fuel to get there.
  • Most of its self-catering properties are French family owned and so renting them benefits the local economy. Similarly, a high proportion of hotels are small and family owned and so the revenue isn't lost to a global corporate entity.
  • Most food is organically grown and marketed locally. The French tend not to fly their food half way round the world as many other countries do, notably Britain.

Low Emission Vehicles

Brittany Ferries is pleased to be a participant in the "Plugged-in Fleets Initiative 100" (PIFI 100) sponsored by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles. In doing so it is extending their environmental policy to our fleet of vehicles in the UK.