Finnish marine technology firm Wärtsilä has confirmed that it will power what its claiming are the “world’s first methanol fuelled hybrid RoRo vessels”. The 147m long NewMax class ships are expected to be delivered to Stena RoRo in 2025 before transfer to Stena Line.
The two NewMax ships, which have been ordered specifically for Stena Line’s Belfast to Heysham freight route, will be powered by two Wärtsilä 32M series engines. It is understood that these are the 9-cylinder version of the 32M which output approximately 5220kW each. The M designation means that the engines are multi-fuel and can run on methanol or diesel. They are also prepared for simplified conversion to ammonia in future, further increasing future proofing.
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Methanol for Reduced Emissions
Stena has specified the methanol hybrid powertrain as part of its efforts to cut emissions and reduce the company’s reliance on traditional fossil fuels. The company has an ambitious target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2030 and to zero by 2050. Stena Line also signed an agreement with Wartsila during the summer to convert some of the company’s existing ferries to run on methanol.
Methanol burns cleaner than Diesel and can also be manufactured, either from natural gas or renewable sources. Even when produced from gas, Stena Line claims that methanol produces 10-15 percent less exhaust emissions than diesel. Other sources claim a reduction of sulphur and particulates by up to 90% and nitrogen by 60%.
In 2015 Stena Line introduced the world’s first commercial ship to be (partially) powered by methanol, STENA GERMANICA. In 2021 STENA GERMANICA became the first passenger ferry to be powered by “blue methanol”, a fuel produced using byproducts of steel manufacturing.
Wärtsilä has also confirmed that Stena’s Heysham NewMax ferries will be delivered with shore power connections. This means that the onboard batteries can be charged and generators switched off in port once shore connections are available. Wärtsilä will supply auxiliary engines, gearboxes, bow thrusters, and the hybrid packages which includes the shore power system. The ships will also be equipped with Wärtsilä’s NACOS navigation system.
The two NewMax ferries are being built by the same China Merchants Jinling (Wehai) shipyard that built Stena’s successful E-Flexer class and Finnlines’ award winning FINNSIRIUS. Two of the E-Flexer class, STENA EDDA and STENA EMBLA, already form the backbone of Stena Line’s Belfast to Liverpool (Birkenhead) service.
A total of 12 E-Flexer ferries have been ordered to date with three still under construction. The next E-Flexer to be delivered will be ALA’SUINU. Charterer Marine Atlantic confirmed a few days ago that ALA’SUINU will replace ATLANTIC VISION on the seasonal Argentia to North Sydney route. Marine Atlantic has not yet confirmed what will happen to ATLANTIC VISION which is chartered from Tallink. She has already completed her final voyage on the Argentia route and when the route returns in June it will be operated by ALA’SUINU.
In addition to the Marine Atlantic vessel, there are two other E-flexers remaining on order. SAINT-MALO and GUILLAUME DE NORMANDIE will be chartered to Brittany Ferries for the Portsmouth to Saint Malo and Portsmouth to Caen (Ouistreham) routes respectively. They will replace the oldest vessels in the French operators fleet, BRETAGNE and NORMANDIE.
Like Marine Atlantic’s ALA’SUINU, Brittany Ferries latest E-Flexer ships will be hybrid but will have larger 11.5 MWh battery packs. This eclipses the 8.8MWh of capacity installed on P&O PIONEER. Brittany Ferries claims that SAINT-MALO will be the largest hybrid vessel ever built when it is delivered based on this capacity. Portsmouth International Port has confirmed that it has secured funding to provide a shore power connection ahead of SAINT-MALO’s introduction during Spring 2025. All three hybrid E-Flexer’s willl be powered by Wärtsilä.
Heysham’s Largest Ferries
Stena’s NewMax class will be the largest ferries to serve Heysham. They will each have capacity for around 2,800 lane metres of freight, around 600lm more than Seatruck’s FSG class. This will be accommodated across 4 decks – decks 1,3,5, and the open deck 7. The vessels were designed by Italian company NAOS Ship and Boat Design, the same company which designed the Visentini RoPax series and the RoRo’s FRIJSENBORG and WEDELSBORG among others.
The appropriately 21,500gt ferries will have accommodation for 12 drivers and carry a crew of 26. The new 147m long NewMax ferries will be about 5m longer than Seatruck’s FSG class and 15m longer than the new Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry MANXMAN.
Stena’s Belfast to Heysham route is currently served by STENA HIBERNIA and STENA SCOTIA. The pair were built in Japan for Norfolk Line during the 1990’s.
Once the NewMax class enters service on the route, currently expected in Autumn 2025, the existing vessels will likely be sold or cascaded elsewhere.