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Environment / No plans to ban electric vehicles from NorthLink ferries

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

LIFELINE ferry operator NorthLink said it is entirely confident that carrying electric and hybrid vehicles on board its ferries does not pose an additional fire risk.

The company said it was aware of the Norwegian ferry operator Havila Voyages banning all electric, hybrid and hydrogen cars from its ships following a risk assessment.

The Norwegian company said a possible fire in such a vehicle would “require external rescue efforts and could put people on board and the ships at risk”.

Latest research indicates that a fire in electric vehicles (EVs) occurs less frequently than in vehicles with a combustion engine, however when they do occur they burn longer and hotter than other fires, and require significant more water to extinguish, something that is difficult to carry on a ferry.

When asked by Shetland News on Friday a company spokesperson said NorthLink had a “range of measures and protocols for safely transporting both standard transmission and EV” in place.

These follow a robust risk assessment and are in line with guidance from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the company said.

NorthLink is “pleased to continue supporting islanders and visitors to Shetland and Orkney with EVs”, the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland, which contracts Serco NorthLink to run the service, said electric vehicles were only classed as dangerous goods when lithium-ion batteries are being charged.

“There is currently no provision on ferries to charge EVs,” the government agency added.

“It is a matter for ferry operators to ensure any cargo carried is safe. There is currently no difference in the advice provided to ferry customers with EVs to that provided to customers with internal combustion engines,” a spokesperson added.

The MCA’s draft guidance note MGN 653 (M) concerning electric vehicles onboard passenger roll-on roll-off (RO-RO) ferries can be found here.

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It is estimated that by 2030 there will be between 500,000 and one million electric cars on Scotland’s roads. Photo: Pixabay

Last month, Havila Yoyages announced that following a risk assessment it would only allow vehicles that use fossil fuels on board its ferries.

Ironically, the shipping company prides itself as the most eco friendly cruise company in Norway having installed the largest battery packs ever on a passenger ship, allowing them to sail for up to four hours with zero emissions.

Managing director Bent Martini said he understands that questions can be asked as to why more environmentally friendly vehicles cannot be transported on board.

“The most important thing for us is to ensure the safety of our passengers and crew,” he said.

“A possible fire in an electric, hybrid or hydrogen car will require external rescue efforts and could put people on board and the ships at risk. We take security seriously, and this is naturally a risk we are not willing to take under any circumstances.

“Our ships are built with their own battery packs, and they are installed in accordance with current requirements for fire safety on ships. This means that our batteries are separated into isolated and fireproof rooms, with specific fire protection systems.”

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