Scottish Ferry Services: Ferries Plan (2013-2022)

Chapter 7: Environmental issues

1. The Draft Ferries Plan set out the Scottish Government's proposals for the provision and support of Scotland's ferry services, including decisions regarding funding and procurement, fares, responsibility for the provision of ferry services, and accessibility. The Draft Ferries Plan also set out proposals for the provision of routes and services.

2. A high-level Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was undertaken of the Draft Ferries Plan, in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. The results of the assessment were set out in the Environmental Report, which was published for consultation alongside the Draft Ferries Plan[12].

Scope of the assessment

3. The funding and procurement of services, and responsibility for their provision, were considered to be the kinds of strategic action that would result in no or minimal environmental effects. The same applied to issues of accessibility. The SEA therefore focused on the potential environmental effects of changes to fares, provision of new vessels and proposals for new and/or changed routes and services.

Results of the assessment

4. No route-specific environmental problems were identified from the operation of the ferry services covered by the Draft Ferries Plan.

5. The proposal to commit to a roll-out of Road Equivalent Tariffs (RET) across the network as the basis for single fares for passengers and cars was assessed at a very high level. The results of the RET pilot show a substantial increase in patronage, with an increase of 30 per cent in car traffic in the first year of the pilot. It is therefore anticipated that the roll-out of RET across the network is likely to result in increased atmospheric emissions, including emissions of greenhouse gases.

6. The proposals for routes and services, including provision of new vessels, were analysed for their potential environmental effects. There was uncertainty around several of these potential effects, specifically the increased risk of collisions between ferries and cetaceans [13]the potential for spread of non-native invasive species; and the potential risk of coastal and seabed erosion resulting from increased vessel numbers. These issues have been investigated further and no significant effects from the increase in vessel numbers and service levels are anticipated. Further details of this work are provided in the SEA post-adoption statement, which includes proposals for monitoring.

7. The key issue identified was the potential for an increase in the emission of greenhouse gases, resulting from:

  • an increase in car traffic volumes taking advantage of the roll-out of RET across the network; and
  • increased vessel traffic, due to increases in both vessel movements on existing routes and the number of vessels.

8. Consultees also identified the potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions from an increase in the length of some vehicle journeys, e.g. to take advantage of new routes (e.g. Campbeltown to Ardrossan, via Arran) or to divert to different ports if some routes were to be changed in the long-term (the latter outcome is uncertain and depends on the results of pilot schemes and subsequent reviews).

9. The Environmental Report explored options for the mitigation of emissions resulting from the roll-out of RET, and concluded that the most meaningful way to achieve this would be to encourage the improved integration of ferry timetables with those for public transport (i.e. bus and rail). This was encouraged through the Northern Isles tender and will be encouraged in the next CHFS tender. This would also apply to increases in vehicle journeys undertaken by cars.

10. The Scottish Government has identified two key approaches to achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from ferry movements: technological measures; and fleet management[14]. The Environmental Report noted that the consultation undertaken as part of the Scottish Ferries Review sought views on how emissions from ferries could be reduced, and in particular sought views from operators and passengers as to whether they would support reductions in vessel speeds as a means of reducing emissions. Comments were also invited as part of the consultation on the Draft Ferries Plan.

11. A range of suggestions was offered, in both consultations, on how to reduce emissions from the operation of the ferry network. Consultees supported the more towards more fuel-efficient vessels and the incorporation of new technology measures, but service changes were also mentioned. They also supported the integration of all public transport. In general, there was little support for reductions in vessel speeds.

12. The Scottish Government does not propose to impose emission reductions through the operation of vessels, e.g. reducing vessel speed. Instead the Government will employ both short-term and long-term measures to achieve emission reductions. Recent short-term actions have focused on improving fuel consumption through drag-reducing paint and the provision of new, more efficient propellers. In the long term, the Government is working with operators and the port sector, particularly those receiving public support, to build on their current activities relating to the environmental impact of maritime transport. This includes emissions reduction from improved vessel design, hybrid diesel-electric engines and use of other alternative fuels, and improved fleet management. Improvements to the efficiency of the subsidised fleet as a whole are dependent upon the pace of vessel replacement. The Government is also considering the scope for more efficient powering of vessels in port through connection to shore-side power sources.