46th Annual Interferry Conference Set for Oct. 1-5 in Seattle

Cutting-edge solutions to an increase in human and technological challenges are expected to be unveiled when global trade association Interferry stages its 46th annual conference in Seattle the first week of October.

The full event, which is themed “Power and People,” is scheduled to run from Oct. 1-5, with a two-day speakers program scheduled for Oct. 3-4 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center on Seattle’s waterfront.

The conference is to be co-hosted by ferry operators Washington State Ferries and FRS Clipper.

Day 1 of the speakers program focuses on the “People” component of the theme, with an opening keynote speech by Tremain Holloway, principal of Seattle’s Highline Maritime High School. Holloway is expected to describe a unique new venture giving young people early exposure to maritime career opportunities through a project-based learning syllabus specifically leveled at students of high school age.

Other planned Day 1 sessions include:

  • A German ‘dual course of study’ concept combining academic education with practical training in a partner company;
  • Current labor trends and the implications of an inevitable, ongoing shortage of employees;
  • Bridging the labor gap through automation – with insights from the aviation industry and a case study of a fully automated berth-to-berth ferry service.

“In a fast-changing operational and environmental climate, the ferry industry’s long-term success depends more than ever on two main factors,” Interferry CEO Mike Corrigan said. “We need to attract dedicated people who are interested in pursuing a rewarding maritime career and help them achieve the qualifications required by our industry. Meanwhile we must drive support for the technologies and facilities that are crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Topics taking on the “Power” component on Day 2 of the event include:

  • Making OPS a reality: covering connection and charging criteria; ensuring a sustainable green transition through industry, political and financial collaboration; the tailor-made design and planning process for operator-specific systems; and leading port initiatives;
  • Fueling the future: featuring a comparison of the emissions-free power options; and hydrogen-based developments in fuel cell and carbon capture solutions;
  • Propelling efficiency: explaining how optimizing propulsion systems can minimize costly and payload-reducing onboard energy storage requirements;
  • Batteries leading the charge: examining fixed and exchangeable onboard energy storage, including a pay-as-you-go swappable battery e-Pod proposition, and;
  • Six vessel project presentations: highlighting electric fast foil ferries; the first US-certified hydrogen fuel cell powered passenger vessel; Sweden’s first large-scale project for a hydrogen powered RoPax (roll on/roll off passenger) ferry; and input from Canada and Finland on major green ferry developments.

Both days of the conference conclude with audience-engaging panel discussions. The first features industry leaders— including Wartsila president and CEO Hakan Agnevall and P&O Ferries CEO Peter Hebblethwaite—debating the fundamental “Power” and “People” issues. In the concluding panel, key innovators are to review the transformational change offered by emerging technologies, including the shift to high-speed but zero emissions ferries.

“While the path towards zero emissions is beginning to reveal itself more clearly, many major operators are struggling to crew their vessels due to a skilled labor shortage,” Corrigan noted. “At a regional level, we are beginning to see cancellations of sailings by BC Ferries and Washington State Ferries because they cannot meet the crew numbers required by their respective transportation authorities.”

“The urgency of this worldwide ferry industry challenge compelled us to offer conference delegates tangible solutions that will engage and train the next generation of mariners and utilize automation to complement their skills while also reducing the strain on labor demand,” Corrigan said.