Sunday 14 April 2024
 5.8°C   WNW Moderate Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Transport / NorthLink assessing risks of electric vehicle chargers on ferries

Green councillor Alex Armitage believes chargers on the overnight sailing would be a good move – but there are concerns it would be counter-intuitive

NorthLink passenger ferry Hjaltland arriving at Lerwick Harbour. Photo: Shetland News

A LOCAL Green councillor says the idea of installing electric vehicle chargers on the NorthLink ferries would be a “step in the right direction”.

Alex Armitage, who represents Shetland South, said it would make life more convenient for the growing number of electric vehicle drivers.

A spokesperson for Serco NorthLink Ferries said that following recent guidance from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), it is “assessing the risks associated with the fitment and use of EV charging onboard to inform decision making”.

But warnings have been made that having points on board may defeat the purpose due to the emissions of the ferries themselves, which could likely power the chargers.

Alex Armitage.

While there are currently no charging facilities on board, the company has a charger at its Aberdeen terminal which is reserved for staff and passengers.

The idea of charging while at sea has re-emerged thanks to pressure from Electric Vehicle Association Scotland, which counts Orkney Renewable Energy Forum chairman Neil Kermode as a member.

He said there has been a campaign to get chargers on the NorthLink ferries for the last four years.

The ferry journeys from Aberdeen to Shetland are overnight, while the stop-offs in Orkney arrive late at night.

The thinking is that electric vehicles could potentially be charged on the car deck of the boat, where they would be sitting stationary anyway.

However, the chargers would effectively be powered by marine fuel, and as it stands the NorthLink boats are big polluters.

When asked about the idea during a visit to Shetland last week, Scottish transport minister Jenny Gilruth said it was not something she was aware of but said it was a “pretty reasonable suggestion”.

Meanwhile Green councillor Armitage generally welcomed the idea, saying it would benefit both local people and also visitors with electric vehicles.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“Whilst I believe that the future of transportation in Shetland will involve significantly more public transport and active travel, there will be a continuing need for private cars, so we need to transition as quickly as possible away from petrol and diesel vehicles to electric,” he said. “So this is a step in the right direction.”

The councillor said, however, that it is more important to make the transition away from internal combustion engines, adding that the lifeline NorthLink service will “eventually be fuelled by green hydrogen or green hydrogen derivatives”.

“For me the key thing is to start work now on getting in place the systems and infrastructure that we need for a zero carbon future,” Armitage said.

Electric car user Gary Robinson feels chargers on board it would be counter intuitive due to the emissions of the ferries and said NorthLink have bigger priorities at the moment.

The electric vehicle charging point in Scalloway. Photo: Shetland News

“My Nissan Leaf is one of the older generation of EVs [electric vehicles] with a range a little over 100 miles, but even so, I could easily plan my journeys without the need to charge on the ferry,” he said.

“As the range of EVs continues to improve; many have a range between 200 and 300 miles now, and with some over 300 miles, the need for frequent topping up is diminishing all the time.”

Robinson added that “as well as being bad for the environment, it would also be extra faff for loading and unloading the ferries as the EVs would have to be loaded and parked close to charging point”.

“If this ends up anywhere close to the top of NorthLink’s priority list, then I’d seriously question their thinking,” he continued.

The new guidance from the MCA in question is ‘MGN653’, which was published in July and has fire safety at its core.

It provides the UK shipping industry with “best practice guidance to facilitate safe carriage, and potential charging of, electric vehicles onboard roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) passenger ferries”.

The guidance said there are few requirements specific to the charging of electric vehicles onboard UK vessels in place at the moment.

“However, noting the increasing popularity of the electric vehicle, it has become apparent that there is a potential for both the users of these vehicles and the operators of vessels to charge vehicles onboard,” it added.

“Charging should be from dedicated charging stations and offered at the discretion of the ships’ master.

“The limited capacity for charging on board and the charging fuel source of the ro-ro ferry, normally marine fuel oil, should be considered when making decisions on charging of electric vehicles, and may partly negate the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.

“Charging operations in the port before and/or after the sea journey may be more efficient, environmentally friendly, cost effective and have a lower risk profile than charging onboard, even if that would be more convenient for the vehicle owners.”

A spokesperson for the MCA said there have never been any MCA-mandated restrictions on allowing electric charging points for vehicles onboard ferries.

“The publication of MGN653 has introduced guidance on how to do it safely, as ferry operators may wish to consider the installation of EV chargers onboard vessels and offering charging options to passengers,” they said.

“The notice goes beyond the question of charging and looks at the overall fire safety of electric vehicles on passenger ro-ro ferries.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.