BRITTANY Ferries has come under fire for going back on plans to fit new, greener engines to its ships.
Earlier this year the firm announced it would be spending £320m on the installation of gas filters, known as scrubbers, on three ships, and the conversion of three newer ships to allow them to operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is less polluting that heavy oil.
It was to comply with EU regulations on sulphur emissions which come into force in January.
But Brittany Ferries’ chairman Jean Marc Roué said the plan was no longer financially viable.
The firm, which operates crossings from Portsmouth to France and Spain, has been criticised by green campaigners who say the plans should have gone ahead no matter what the cost.
Ray Cobbett, Hampshire co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Frankly, they should do anything they can to reduce emissions. Maritime traffic is one of the most significant sources of emissions. There is a great global concern about sea traffic – which is unregulated.
‘This was an attempt to get them to go a bit greener.
‘Everybody else is doing their bit. Emissions are being reduced in cars and buses. Why can’t ferries play their part too?’
But Mr Roué said the company would have been hit with a ‘double penalty’ had it gone ahead with LNG.
He said: ‘It is impossible for us to commit to an ecological transition plan which requires such a high level of investment, when, due to the absence of a temporary exemption (from the EU regulations) we will also incur hefty additional annual costs amounting to tens of millions of euros, due to us being obliged to use diesel instead of heavy fuel oil until our ships have been converted.
‘We have worked tirelessly for a temporary exemption but these efforts have sadly been in vain.
‘Without it, the economic viability of our LNG programme is in jeopardy.
‘It is my duty to protect the company and its staff at a time when the European ferry industry is confronting numerous challenges.’
The ships will switch to diesel and have filters fitted to funnels to clean emissions.
To read The News’ view on this click here.