Chartwell Marine appoints senior naval architect, ventures into fast ferry market

Christophe Rident Chartwell senior naval architect

UK-based naval architecture firm Chartwell Marine has appointed Christophe Rident as its senior naval architect.

The firm, which plans to expand into the fast ferry market in 2024, says Rident will support activities in the design and eventual commercialisation of ferries.

Rident joins from BMT, where he developed full-electric and hybrid fast ferry and commercial vessel solutions.

Traditionally powered by diesel, the fast ferry market is now exploring low-emission options as decarbonisation targets become more ambitious.

Chartwell says it is now focusing on the sector, examining the most practical and cost-efficient routes to emissions reduction. Challenges it identifies in the sector include the fact that full-electric fast ferries offer the biggest emissions reductions, but typically compromise on speed, currently reaching around 23 knots compared to the 38-40 knots achievable with diesel-powered fast ferries.

Another challenge the sector faces is battery capacity, which remains crucial in determining operational range without the need for recharging, a factor which directly affects speed. Success also hinges on addressing the scarcity of shoreside charging points along waterways, which complicates the logistics of longer journeys.

“While operators exhibit a strong interest in transitioning to full electric, the need to integrate with existing shoreside grid infrastructure, which they usually do not own, often hinders progress,” says Rident.

“In many places worldwide, where fast ferries could benefit from robust local engineering industry; inadequate grid infrastructure combined with a lack of available space shoreside for fast-charging equipment pushes owners towards a hybrid solution to reduce reliance on electricity. At the same time, there is a hesitancy in the industry about embracing batteries as the sole source of power, as these are still often seen as a volatile and unreliable option.”

Rident continues: “Regulations are pivotal in driving decarbonisation efforts. For example, in the US, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will require operators to refit their ferries with expensive and space demanding after-exhaust treatment equipment or procure new electric ones in the coming years. The federal government has also introduced initiatives to decarbonise waterways, with a focus on electrification for fast crafts. On the other hand, most of Asia is not yet subject to IMO Tier-3 regulations, and mostly continues to use pure diesel. In those countries, the shift to green technologies will be driven by consumer opinion, encouraging ferry companies to invest in sustainable solutions now.”

Andy Page, managing director of Chartwell Marine, adds: “As we venture into the fast ferry market, we’re aiming to shape a new operational paradigm centred on sleek design, compact size, and electrification bolstered by proactive shoreside partners. That’s how we believe we can close the gap on traditional diesel-powered vessels. We’re delighted to welcome Christophe to the team to leverage his expertise and help us make fast ferries the next big hitter in decarbonisation.”

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