Estonian State Fleet

Hydrogen fuel-cell ferry wins LR’s AIP

The Estonian State Fleet has won Approval in Principle (AIP) from Lloyd’s Register (LR) for a hydrogen fuel-cell ferry designed by Finnish ship design and engineering company Deltamarin.

Image by Estonian State Fleet

As part of the certification, LR approved the current stage of the design process to be suitable for further design, construction, and procurement of the ropax ferry. The thorough AiP process was conducted by LR experts and led by its Hamburg Technical Support Office. 

The zero-emissions ferry is to be operated between the Estonian mainland and the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, on the Virtsu-Kuivastu and Rohuküla-Heltermaa routes, which connect the Baltic nation to its two largest islands. 

The new energy-efficient ferry will be unique in the region, as it will be able to run entirely on hydrogen fuel, in addition to shore-supplied electricity, operate without noise and vibrations, and operate in fully autonomous mode with crew onboard.

“Received AiP from leading experts is very valuable proof that our environmental and energy efficient ferry with innovative hydrogen fuel-cell battery propulsion has no showstoppers for further construction. Lloyd’s Register’s expertise ensures that the pioneering work we are doing is professional and competent,” Valentin Bratkov, Project Manager, Estonian State Fleet. said.

“LR is pleased to have acted as a trusted adviser on this project with Estonian State Fleet to provide the Estonian government with a new battery-hydrogen fuelled ferry for the Virtsu-Kuivastu and Rohuküla-Heltermaa routes. Not only will this ferry help to progress the transition towards low and zero carbon vessels, but it will also provide improved connectivity between Estonian and its largest islands,” Patrick Wrede, LR Key Account Manager, said. 

LR has also approved the strength of the new ferry concept at the end of November 2023.

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Estonian Government launched the call for tender for the construction of the ferry back in December 2023, and the submission deadline was January 17, 2024. The name of the selected bidder is expected to be announced shortly.

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 The new ferry has been designed with technology allowing for autonomous onboard operations and readiness for remote control with onboard backup and situational awareness, meaning that the ferry will be capable of sailing between ports in fully autonomous mode.

The Estonian State Fleet is committed to leading the way in innovation within its sector. To achieve this, we have undertaken a project to develop a passenger ship with a remarkably high level of autonomy,” Andres Laasma, the Director General of the Estonian State Fleet said.

“Despite the challenges involved in this complex endeavour, including regulatory hurdles, technological risks, and significant initial investments, the potential benefits are considerable. These benefits include cost savings, market leadership, innovation, and a positive impact on the environment.”

The new ferry will accommodate just over 1,000 lane meters for cars, about 20% more than the previous generation ferries. The ferry is designed to carry up to 700 passengers.

The estimated cost of the procurement is around 40 million. The shipbuilding will be financed by the European Modernisation Fund and revenues from CO2 emissions trading.

The new vessel is planned to start operating on the Virtsu–Kuivastu route on October 1, 2026.

Meanwhile, the Estonian State Fleet has signed a deal with Baltic Workboats for the construction of a new workboat that will be powered by biomethane and electricity to cut emissions.