Building on the recent policy statement from French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, climate-neutral cross-Channel transport reached a milestone as the Channel Ports and ferry operator DFDS have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate towards the decarbonisation of maritime traffic in the short straits.

The sea routes between Dover and France carry 59% of all ferry journeys between the UK and the European Union and carry 33% of the UK's trade in goods with the Continent. Recognizing the vital importance of this route, the recent Franco-British summit agreed on an accelerated joint effort to support the establishment of green maritime corridors between the two nations. DFDS, together with the Port of Dover, the Ports of Boulogne-Calais and Dunkirk, have seized on this momentum to agree on a joint work program which will enable the transition to electric traffic shipping on the English Channel.

This work programme continues the momentum established by the work of the Green Corridor Short Straits Consortium to investigate cross-Channel ferry fleet decarbonisation measures, funded in part 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 players from academia and industry. Alongside work on its energy strategy, the Port of Dover has also made industry-leading commitments to achieve net zero CO2 emissions for Scopes 1 and 2 by 2025 and scope 3 by 2030.

This initiative implies that carbon-neutral cross-Channel maritime transport, using zero-emission battery-powered electric ferries and charging facilities in ports, could become a reality by 2030. This would give a boost to the realization of the goal of decarbonizing the global maritime sector.

Patrice Vergriete, Mayor of Dunkirk, President of the Urban Community 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 decarbonisation, in all its dimensions. The collective work that we initiated 8 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 view, of our collective commitment. DFDS' commitment 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 of ESPO (European Sea Ports Organisation), said:

"Being a partner in the ecological transition is an absolute priority for European ports. There is no time or money to lose. Greening of the maritime transport sector is both a technological and financial challenge. The best way forward is to think, commit, work and invest together. The Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday in is a good example. Three ports and a shipping company have created a coalition of goodwill to find as quickly as possible the best way to effectively reduce emissions and avoid irrelevant investments."

The Port of Dunkirk has drawn up a decarbonisation roadmap specifying its commitments in this regard and has obtained ECOPORT certification for its best practices in terms of sustainable development. The Port of Boulogne-Calais is reducing its CO2 emissions through its environmental planning commitments, including ISO 14001 certification, and is aiming for ISO 50001 certification of its energy management systems in 2023.

With its two-step climate action plan, DFDS is leading the change in the shipping and logistics sector. The operator has a short-term goal to reduce relative CO2 emissions from ships by 45% by 2030. Its long-term goal is to be completely climate-neutral by 2050. DFDS recently demonstrated its commitment to greener transport solutions with the introduction of 20 electric trucks following a record order for such vehicles.

Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS, says:

“The commitment that DFDS and our partner ports have made today is an important step towards decarbonizing cross-Channel transport. It reflects the urgency of our decarbonisation efforts through our commitment to transition maritime traffic on the Channel to electricity before 2030. The memorandum of understanding we signed today outlines our shared ambition to invest in the development and delivery of electric or hybrid ferries and the infrastructure needed to charge them in ports. We have set a clear timeline and today is a key milestone in our collaboration to achieve carbon neutrality. Decarbonising the English Channel is key to achieving our net zero ambitions as it is one of the highest sources of emissions. In parallel, however, it offers undeniable opportunities to reduce emissions thanks to short crossings and our schedule for renewing our cross-Channel fleet.”

Doug Bannister, Managing Director of the Port of Dover, adds:

“Following Clydebank’s statement at the COP26 Climate Summit in 2021, the Port of Dover and its partners affirmed their ambition to become the world’s first high-volume green shipping corridor. We now have the political ambition to get there. Today's commitment from the Port of Dover, DFDS and our French port partners, together with the continued support of our other two ferry operators, puts us in the perfect position to lead the work of the France Task Force. - Recently announced UK to develop a roadmap for the deployment of zero emissions technology and the infrastructure required for it. With 130 ferry movements per day on the busiest sea route in the world, this will place the Strait at the forefront of decarbonisation within the global maritime industry. Having launched our Targeting Our Sustainable Future program in 2022, the Port of Dover is on track to achieve net zero CO2 emissions (scope 1 and 2) by 2025, as we are working with our partners to support the transition to zero-emission ships and a green maritime corridor between the UK and France.”

Benoit Rochet, Chairman and CEO of the Port of Boulogne-Calais, adds:

“We naturally support our customers, maritime operators, in cooperation with the Port of Dover, in their energy transition and the decarbonisation of the Channel. The shared ambition is to move towards carbon neutrality by 2030, which will necessarily involve the design of new generation ships using propulsion technologies that are more respectful of the environment. The port of Calais is working with DFDS and its partners to build the infrastructure necessary for environmentally friendly ships.”

Maurice Georges, CEO of the Port of Dunkirk, concludes:

“We are very satisfied with the collective and collaborative work to decarbonise the Channel initiated by DFDS, the ports of Boulogne-Calais, Dover and Dunkirk. First European energy pole, the industrial-port area of ​​Dunkirk will be there to support this major ambition to create a green corridor. This initiative is also fully in line with the decarbonisation strategy of the Dunkirk region supported by the Urban Community of Dunkirk (CUD) and Euraenergy, of which the Port of Dunkirk is a partner.”

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