P&O Ferries has taken delivery of the first of two new Fusion Class ferries, which are the world’s first and largest double-ended ferries. Built in China at Guangzhou Shipyard International, a division of CSSC, the ships will establish several industry firsts for their size, luxury and hybrid propulsion capabilities. The P&O pioneerthe first of the two ferries departed Nansha, China, early this morning bound for Singapore on the first leg of its delivery journey to the UK.
P&O ordered them pioneer and her sister ship release, due for delivery in June 2023 and hailed in 2019 as the first of a new generation of super ferries that would transform the customer experience. At 47,394 gross tons and 756 feet overall, they are the largest ferries of their kind, designed to replace older vessels on the route between Dover, England and Calais, France. They increase both passenger and freight capacity on the busy route.
One of the unique elements of the design is that they are the largest double-ended ferries, meaning the vessels will not have to maneuver and turn at each endpoint, which P&O says will make trips faster and more efficient. There are double bridges at each end of the ship, a design similar to much smaller coastal and inland ferries. They are the first ever to be fitted with two 7500kW Azipods at each end. With this unique configuration, the ships can operate at a speed of 20.8 knots.
The ships were also fitted with large capacity batteries. There are four battery rooms on board with a total of 1,160 large batteries. The maximum storage capacity is 8.8 megawatts. The ships can use shore power as well as charge the batteries during the journey. During the cruise, excess power from the shaft generators is used to charge the batteries, while the power system also ensures a consistent power supply by removing peaks and valleys to maximize energy efficiency.
In addition, there is a high degree of automation due to the ship systems. According to Guangzhou, over 12,000 alarm points are integrated into the systems. The shipyard likes to point out that the ships can instantly switch between diesel and batteries at the push of a button.
The shore power capacity has caused some controversy in the UK, with some newspapers highlighting that neither Dover nor Calais currently have the shore power capacity to power the vessels. P&O Ferries denied reports that they built the ships without consulting ports, saying they didn’t expect in the early years that the ships would operate with zero emissions and pay fees at the port.
The ships can carry 1,500 passengers with more than 100,000 square feet of passenger space. Amenities include restaurants, bars, a gym, a children’s area, and relaxation and entertainment areas. The passenger areas include a large, curved glass wall on each side of the ship, offering 180-degree views. The ship also has space for 700 vehicles and a comfortable room for drivers to relax during the journey.
The launch of the new ships is part of the company’s effort to rebuild relationships between passengers and the community following the disastrous episode in 2022 when they laid off their crews to replace them with lower-cost contract workers. There were rumors in the UK that the new ships were another step towards downsizing, which P&O has had to deny. When the ships were ordered, P&O also had options for two sister ships.
P&O Ferries highlights that the launches are part of a broader strategy to increase capacity on its main routes. In February they also announced a new agreement with Finnlines where they will operate the chartered ships fin meat (11,600 dwt) RoRo cargo vessel operating three days a week between Zeebrugge, Belgium and Teesport, England for P&O Ferries. On the other days the ship sails to Ireland fin meat. The ship adds 225 trailer capacity to the route and P&O Ferries will provide stevedoring and ship handling services for the ship as part of the freight services partnership.
Guangzhou notes that these are the first large ferries built in China for the UK. The company believes the unique designs will revolutionize the luxury ferry market.