Transport / Government wants new freight vessels to be as ‘low carbon as possible’

NorthLink freight boat Hildasay.

THE TWO new freight vessels planned for the Northern Isles ferry route will be as “low carbon as possible”, according to government agency Transport Scotland.

The replacements for the existing diesel-powered cargo ships Helliar and Hildasay could be in service by around 2026.

Ferries are a big contributor to carbon emissions. A meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum previously heard that the new vessels should cut emissions.

They could use a dual fuel system which includes LNG (gas).

When pressed by Shetland News this week Transport Scotland was unable to provide more information at this stage.

However, a spokesperson said: “The latest Scottish Government Programme for Government for 2021-2022 reiterates the commitment made as part of the Climate Change Plan Update 2020 that 30 per cent of Scottish Government owned ferries will be low emission by 2032.

“As part of the work on the new freight vessels, CMAL [Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd] will explore all available options and technologies to ensure these vessels are as low carbon as possible and are contributing to our ambitious targets to cut emissions.”


Transport Scotland is currently considering the prospect of “freight plus” ships which could include the ability to carry around 200 passengers, with the hope that it relieves capacity pressure on the Hrossey and Hjaltland during peak season.

Emissions and environmental impact have been brought into sharp focus ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next month.

Scotland has a target of going ‘net zero’ by 2045.

The government says this means the “amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the atmosphere and the amount we’re able to take out will add up to zero”.

At a more local level, Shetland Islands Council’s inter-island ferry fleet is also a key emitter in the isles.

Chairman of the council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said: “There is no doubt, to achieve our net-zero targets both locally and nationally, the introduction of greener vessels on our lifeline routes must play a significant part of that.

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“Over 50 per cent of the SIC’s CO2 emissions comes from our fleet of vessels, and with the introduction of greener vessels in the short term, and going forward fixed links where viable, this will go a long way to helping us achieve our environmental targets, which is an absolute must.

“Shetland’s carbon footprint is almost twice the national average, simply due to our remote location.

“Making our transport links greener in the short term and the longer term is a must in addressing this statistic.”

It comes as a design was revealed this week for a hydrogen powered vessel which would operate between Kirkwall and Shapinsay in Orkney.


It is part of the HYSEAS III project, which aims to build Europe’s first sea-going ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The EU-funded programme involves partners CMAL, St. Andrew’s University, Orkney Islands Council and several European organisations.

The design will be complete in March 2022, at which point CMAL will seek funding partners to take the approved design to the procurement stage.

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