First New P&O Ferries Dover Ship Floated Out in China

Next Dover – Calais Ships Adopt New Naming Scheme

The first of P&O Ferries new double-ended Dover – Calais ferries was floated out at Guangzhou, China on 2 January.  At 230.5m in length, she will be the world’s largest double-ended ferry when she is delivered next year.  A sister-ship is also under construction at the same shipyard and is also expected to enter service during 2023. 

Ordered at a cost of €260m (approx. US$300m), the new ships will be the first new-builds delivered to P&O Ferries since the current Dover – Calais flag ships SPIRIT OF BRITAIN and SPIRIT OF FRANCE were introduced in 2011 and 2012.  Danish company OSK-Shiptech was responsible for the overall concept design and is the naval architect on the project. 

According to Equasis, the new ferries will be named P&O PIONEER and P&O LIBERTE. This is a departure from the naming schemes currently in use by the company. The current ships in Dover to Calais service are SPIRIT OF FRANCE, SPIRIT OF BRITAIN, PRIDE OF KENT, and PRIDE OF CANTERBURY. Equasis dates would suggest that P&O PIONEER will be delivered to P&O Ferries towards the end of September 2022.


P&O’s new ships will be very different to any channel ferry that has gone before, both aesthetically and technically.   Rather than using conventional propellers and thrusters, P&O’s new ferries will use four ABB-supplied Azipods with a unit located close to each corner of the vessel.  This will give the vessels unmatched manoeuvrability with each Azipod able to be rotated by 360 degrees. 

One of four ABB Azipods is lifted into place o the hull of P&O PIONEER. Image: GSI.

Despite this manoeuvrability, P&O Ferries intends that the ships will not need to turn around in port as is the case in both Dover and Calais with the present vessels.  This will save time which can instead be used when loading/unloading the vessels or to allow for a slower crossing speed to improve fuel consumption.  Any fuel saving gained by crossing at a more leisurely pace will be in addition to the projected saving of one sixth of the entire fuel consumption of each crossing by the ship having much reduced port manoeuvres.

Power is provided through a diesel-battery hybrid system, with the main engines supplied by Wärtsilä and the batteries by Freudenberg Group subsidiary XALT Energy.  ABB is supplying a digital energy management system and the main engines are fitted with digital communication units.  As any spare energy generated by the main engines will automatically be stored in the batteries for use while manoeuvring or when the vessel requires peak power, fuel consumption is expected to be slashed by 40%.


P&O Ferries’ new ships will be fitted with two pairs of fin stabilisers rather than the usual one, with each pair optimised for use in a single direction.  This will guarantee a smooth crossing no matter which direction the ferry is facing. 

Likewise, the vessels have two main navigational bridges rather than one and engine rooms at both ends of the ships.  Between crossings, the bridge team will transfer to the bridge at the other end of the vessel. The ship’s batteries will be housed in four rooms in total, spaced throughout the hull of the vessel.  In total around 1,000 batteries will be installed on each ship giving a total output capacity of 8,816kW.

The first of P&O Ferries Dover – Calais double-ended ferries P&O PIONEER afloat at GSI. Image: GSI.

Passenger Spaces

In the weeks leading up to the launch of the lead vessel, the full-scale interior mock-ups of the passenger spaces were approved.  The interior design contract has been awarded to OSK-Shiptech subsidiary Steen Friis Design, while Chinese company North Sea Offshore will be responsible for outfitting.  Some photos of the interior mock-ups can be seen on this Chinese website.

An artist impression of one of P&O Ferries new-build double-ended ferries in operation. Image: P&O Ferries.

P&O’s current Calais ferries have in the past been criticised for a lack of outside deck space.  This appears to have been directly addressed by the design team, with some 1550m2 of outside space on each of the new vessels.  Double height windows spanning decks 8 and 9 dominate the middle of each vessel, allowing passengers to take in views from the warmth of inside.  

Vehicle Spaces

Vehicles will be housed on two freight decks and a separate car garage above.  Together, the main and upper freight deck can provide around 2,800 lane metres of space.  The separate car and small van deck can take up to 200 passenger cars.  While more space could have been provided by specifying a lower hold, these are rarely used on Dover-Strait ferries due to turnaround times.  In the case of the new P&O vessels, this space is also required for batteries and the duplicated technology such as stabilisers and engines.  Vehicle access is via large doors with platforms for the shoreside ramps to rest on at each end.

Key Data – P&O Pioneer & P&O Liberte

A side view of P&O Ferries’ new double-ended Dover – Calais ferries with some of their key technologies highlighted. Image: P&O Ferries.
Name P&O Pionner P&O Liberte
IMO Number 9895161 9895173
Route  Dover [GB] – Calas [FR]

Guangzhou Shipyard International (CSSC Group), China

Delivery (for introduction to service during 2023)



Concept Design OSK-Shiptech and P&O Ferries
Interior Design Steen Friis Design
Interior Outfitting North Sea Offshore
Length 230.5 m 
Breadth 30.8m
Gross Tonnage 47,394 gt
Main Engines 4 x Wärtsilä 16v31 Marine Diesel Engines fitted with ABB turbochargers and Wärtsilä AI technology
Propulsion 4 x 7.5MW ABB DO1600 Azipods

Ultra low sulphur fuel oil and the recovered electrical energy stored in the onboard batteries.  

Provision has been made for future upgrading to “carbon neutral” battery only operation should shoreside facilities capable of charging sufficient batteries during the short turnaround period become available at Dover and Calais.

Service Speed 20.8 kts
Passenger Capacity

1,500 passengers

Passengers are accommodated on decks 8 and 9

Vehicle Capacity

Up to 2,800lm for commercial vehicles plus 200 cars or small vans.  

Total of 3,600lm including both freight decks and the reduced height car deck.



P&O Ferries PR was contacted prior to the publication of this article, but declined to comment.

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