Fast Ferries - pointless gas-guzzlers

The Trasmediterránea shipping line brought its "Milenium II" Fast Ferry into service last week to replace one of the firm's Jet Foil craft.

Like the Fred Olsen Line when it introduced its Fast Ferries, Trasmediterránea has made a big thing about the passenger capacity of these vessels and the fact they can carry cars.

There has also been a lot of media ballyhoo about the power of these ships, which require thousands of horsepower to move them through the water at high speed. However, what no one (least of all the Island's authorities and toadying media) mentions is the spectacular misuse of energy all this power involves.

Transmediterránea shipping line's "Milenium II" Fast Ferry

Let's look at the figures: the "Milenium II" Fast Ferry - like the ones in service with the Fred Olsen Line ("Bonanza Express", "Benchijigua Express", and "Bentayga Express") - has four engines, each with a power rating of 7200 Watts. That comes to close on 30 MW per vessel.

By comparison, the Jet-Foil used just 5700 Watts - that is to say, only a fifth of the power used by a Fast Ferry. Put another way, Trasmediterránea's new gas-guzzling addition to the fleet uses as much fuel as five Jet-Foils would.

If we throw Fred Olsen's Fast Ferries into the calculation, we could have 21 Jet-Foils sailing between the islands for the same amount of fuel consumed by just 4 Fast Ferries. Of course, the ferry companies care very little about wasting fuel. After all, why should they when they can pass on these costs to passengers in the form of higher fares and to the rest of the planet through global warming?

It seems the travellers who use these ferries (among them tourists) are equally blasé. The inhabitants of Gomera (who used to pay just €4.81 for the trip to Tenerife) have accepted the Fast Ferry without a murmur, even though the journey is now much dearer. The new vessel only shaves 40 minutes off the trip. In the case of other routes (e.g. Bocayna, between Corralejo and Playa Blanca), the time saving by Fast Ferry is even more pathetic (under quarter of an hour).

How can one possibly justify wasting fuel on such a scale (and deafening whales into the bargain) just for the sake of saving a few minutes?

"Banchijigua", Fred Olsen's new Fast Ferry

Let us examine some more revealing comparisons: the power generated by all of Tenerife's much-vaunted wind farms [ i.e. Teno (2 MW), ITER (13 MW) and Finca de Mogán (almost 20 MW)] hardly produce more than the 30 MW used by a single Fast Ferry (and then only when there's enough wind).

That means that each ferry uses as much energy as the total output of the Island's wind farms. Put like this, Tenerife's supposed commitment to alternative energy and sustainable development is revealed for what it is - a sham. When one considers the Canary Island's totally irrational use of energy, it is small wonder that Tenerife is packed with refineries, electricity pylons, and thermal power stations. The Fast Ferries are just the latest manifestation of this sinful waste of resources.

The saddest thing about the whole Fast Ferry affair is that the Jet-Foils were an excellent solution for linking the island capitals in less than an hour and a half and were so efficient that they competed with planes. The problem - as always - is the car. The Jet-Foils transport people, not vehicles. Far from being a drawback, one would think this was an advantage. After all, why can't drivers rent a car when they reach their destination? Better still, they could use some other form of transport. In this context, it should be recalled that cars are the main source of pollution in the Canary Islands.

Yet another Fast Ferry will be brought into service at the end of this year. It is a Fred Olsen vessel - the new "Benchijigua Express". The chances are it will be even bigger than the previous ones. Some might call this progress - we see it as helping to shipwreck Tenerife's hopes of a sustainable future.

5th October 2004

Canary Islands

Versión espańola

Coasts and Sea

- More information on the destruction of the marine and coastal environment in the Canary Islands in our "Coasts" section

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