by Victoria Masterson

A ferry described as the world’s fastest electric passenger vessel is being trialed in Sweden.

As shipping as a whole attempts to decarbonize, could this be an indicator of the industry’s future?

The fastest electric ship

In 2023, a new electric ferry called the Candela P-12 will start running a trial service from the Swedish capital, Stockholm, to the island suburb of Ekerö.

Swedish electric boat maker Candela, which has developed the ferry, says it uses 80 percent less energy than conventional ships and removes 100 percent of local emissions.

With an average speed of 20-30 knots, the P-12 is the “fastest electric ship to date,” Candela says, and is apparently faster for commuters than subway trains, buses and cars driving in rush hour.

The ferry flies above the water, reports Euronews, using three carbon fiber wings that extend out of the hull.

It has a capacity of 30 passengers and runs on a battery that can be charged in an hour from empty, reports Bloomberg.

If the nine-month trial is successful, Candela hopes its electric ferries could replace Stockholm’s current fleet of 70 diesel vessels.

Are there benefits for wider shipping?

Electric boats that run on batteries are an option for short sea journeys in smaller vessels such as passenger ferries. But longer routes with bigger boats — like those typically needed for cargo shipping — are different.

Electrification is “really not an option for deep-sea vessels, due to the size of batteries that would be required,” says Johannah Christensen of the Global Maritime Forum in an interview with the World Economic Forum.

In fact, international shipping is one of the toughest — and biggest — sectors to decarbonize. Around 11 billion tonnes of goods a year are transported by ship, between at least 150 countries. Shipping transports around 80 percent of world trade.

Why does shipping need to cut emissions?

Shipping accounts for around 3 percent of global emissions. The world can’t become carbon-neutral without removing these emissions, experts say.

Ships typically run on heavy fuel oil — a waste product from crude oil refining that is low-quality and high-carbon.

Air pollution from shipping is thought to cause around 60,000 premature deaths a year, especially around coastal and port areas.

How is shipping decarbonization progressing?

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) — the United Nations body that regulates shipping — pledged in 2018 to halve the shipping sector’s emissions by 2050. This goal will be reviewed in 2023.

More than 200 maritime industry leaders are calling for shipping to be carbon-free by 2050, through the Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonization. This is a partnership between the Global Maritime Forum — an international organization focused on the future sustainability of seaborne trade — the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action — an informal group of ocean leaders co-hosted by the Forum and environmental research organization the World Resources Institute.

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