December 15, 2021
5 min read

Norway’s “ferrytale” on green waves

Lars Weimoth

With enhanced battery technology, the world’s largest all-electric car ferry is now making the trip across the Oslo Fjord, Norway’s busiest ferry crossing, safer and emission free. “We want zero-emissions ships to become the new normal.”

Electric ferries mean big cuts in local emissions, less noise and more reliable operations.

Øyvind Lund

CEO Bastø Fosen

In 2019, Bastø Fosen’s five ferries carried 3.7 million passengers and 1.8 million vehicles on 36,000 departures. The newest electric ferry, says CEO Øyvind Lund, gives the company additional capacity.

“We’re seeing a green paradigm shift where technological development has reached new levels”, says Øyvind Lund, CEO of the ferry company Bastø Fosen, which operates on the Moss-Horten route across the Oslo Fjord, Norway’s busiest crossing. “Our all-electric ferry Bastø Electric, the largest anywhere in the worldis one of a kind in both size and charging effect.”

Bastø Fosen’s investments in electrification of their fleet – with large battery packs and lightning-fast charging systems – means  that the company will reduce its CO2 emissions by 75 percent in 2022 – reducing their diesel consumption with  six million liters per year.

Electrifying the sea

It's not just the Norwegian car fleet that is being electrified:  More and more electric ferries are becoming the standard in Norway. In fact, the green transformation of the Norwegian shipping sector has become a priority for the government as part of reaching the country’s climate goals for 2030. And in a recent climate plan, the government has already set high requirements for operators to transition to low- or zero-emission ships by 2030.

The transformation of technology is vital to achieving these goals. “The development of green technologies that reduce emissions is one of the most important contributions we can make,” says Bjørn Einar Brath, CEO of Siemens Energy AS, which supplied the batteries, control and charging systems for Bastø Fosen’s electric ferries. “We want zero-emission ships to become the new normal, not just in Norway, but worldwide."

Captain Svein Erik Waskaas will safely steer the world's largest all-electric ferry between Moss and Horten. Bastø Electric can carry 600 passengers and 203 cars per crossing.

Big cuts in local emissions

The 143-meter-long Bastø Electric started its journey from the shipyard in Turkey to Horten in December 2020 and went into operation during the spring of 2021.

“This is a huge boost for us,” says CEO Lund. “In addition to the new ferry, we’ve commissioned Siemens Energy to convert two of our other ferries to electric operation. By spring of 2022, we’ll have three fully-electric ferries in operation 20 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Bastø Fosen was established in 1996. At that time, they started with two diesel-powered ferries and have since seen a rapid development in the number of passengers and vehicles. In 2019, the ferries carried 3.7 million passengers and 1.8 million vehicles on 36,000 departures.

“This is the country's busiest domestic ferry link,” says Lund. “And we want it to contribute to the green shift in the economy. Electric ferries mean big cuts in local emissions, less noise and more reliable operations.”

The ports of Moss and Horten will be equipped with brand new, powerful loading bays.

High-speed charging systems at the ports in Moss and Horten only take minutes to charge the ferries.

Confidence in the technology

The ports in both Moss and Horten are now being upgraded with the latest technology in high-speed charging. This ensures that Bastø Electric and the retrofitted electric ferries will have fully-charged batteries in a matter of minutes.

“From the outside, a diesel-powered ferry and an electric ferry still look quite similar. The biggest difference is in the engine room,” says Lund, looking at the ferry moored in the snowy harbor.

Once on board, of course, down in the heart of Bastø Electric, in the modern battery and switchboard room, the differences become apparent. Lund points to the water-cooled battery system from Siemens Energy,  a successful solution choice for Bastø Fosen's new electric ferries.

“As a technology supplier and development partner, Siemens Energy takes a holistic responsibility that makes us confident in the new technology,” adds Lund. “For us, predictable operation and low operating costs are important, and we have the greatest confidence in the experience and competence behind these battery solutions.” 

Stamp of approval for battery systems

“Of course, new technology can’t come at the expense of security,” emphasizes Lund.

In Norway, DNV, an international quality assurance and risk management organization, verifies the seaworthiness of all classified ships in domestic shipping. “Electric ships have modern battery systems as the main source of propulsion,” says Sverre Eriksen, Senior Engineer at DNV. “To ensure safety, we carry out a thorough certification process based on specific requirements."

The battery system originally used by Siemens Energy was already type-approved by DNV, and had been part of development from the start.  In recent years, however, Siemens Energy has developed its own battery system with a high level of safety.

“The safety of battery-powered electric ferries is at least as high as the safety of traditional diesel-powered ferries, in terms of availability of power for propulsion and steering as well as electrical safety and fire,” says Eriksen.

December, 2021

This article was originally published in the Norwegian news journal Dagens Naeringsliv 

Combined picture credits: Benjamin A. Ward, Siemens Energy