UK’s first LNG-powered ferry launches route between Portsmouth and Bilbao

The UK’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered ferry arrived in the Spanish port city of Bilbao this week from Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. Here's what you need to know about the new green energy ferry route.

Brittany Ferries Salamanca LNG-powered vessel. Photo: Brittany Ferries

The Salamanca is the first LNG-powered vessel to join the Brittany Ferries’ fleet and left on its inaugural voyage to Spain on Sunday March 27th with more than 600 passengers and freight vehicles.

She is set to make two round trips to Bilbao each week – one way will take around 28 hours – and will also make a weekly return voyage to Cherbourg in France.

“LNG-powered ships like Salamanca are a clear statement of our commitment to the future and to fleet renewal,” said Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries CEO.

“They are cleaner vessels, significantly cutting air quality emissions like soot and sulphur. That’s good news for port partners today, but they could be even greener in the years to come. Salamanca is capable of running on future fuels like e-methane or bio-methane if these become available in volume. Either has the potential to cut carbon footprint significantly, in addition to the cleaner air that LNG-power brings from day one,” he added.

The company promises a smoother, quieter ride for passengers, as well as less carbon emissions during the journey.

The Salamanca will sail with around 500 cubic metres of LNG and will be refuelled about twice a week in Bilbao, at the new refuelling station created by Repsol, which is expected to start operating in the coming days.

A cryogenic tank with the capacity to hold up to a thousand cubic metres at -160 °C degrees has been installed there. The president of the Port Authority, Ricardo Barkala, explained that it will also provide service to other gas vessels that use the port.

Mathieu stressed that after facing challenges such as Brexit and the pandemic, “the connections between the United Kingdom, Bilbao and Santander are almost complete for this season”.

Salamanca’s sister ship the Santoña is set to join Brittany ferries’ fleet next year. Also, LNG-powered, it will connect Portsmouth with Santander. Two more LNG-electric hybrid vessels will also be ready by 2025, connecting Portsmouth with St Malo and Caen in France.

Salamanca is one of the largest ships in the Brittany Ferries fleet. She is 214.5 metres long, with ten decks and can host up to 1,015 passengers in 341 cabins. With nearly 3km of space, she can also transport cars and freight.

READ ALSO – LATEST: P&O Ferries cancels services between France and UK and fires 800 staff

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Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Spain on Saturday eased Covid entry rules for unvaccinated tourists from outside the European Union, in a boost for the key tourism sector ahead of the peak summer holidays.

Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Until now travellers from outside the bloc — including Spain’s main tourism market Britain — could only enter with proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.

But as of Saturday visitors from outside of the EU will also be allowed to enter Spain with a negative Covid test result, the transport ministry said in a statement.

PCR tests must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain or an antigen test 24 hours prior to departure.

Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto said the “new phase of the pandemic” meant the country was able to relax the rules by equating non-EU travellers with those of the bloc.

“This is excellent news, much awaited by the tourism sector, which will make it easier for tourists outside of Europe to visit us during the high season,” she added in the statement.

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from submitting any type of certificate.

With sunny beaches and a rich architectural heritage, Spain was the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, with 83.5 million foreign visitors in 2019.

But international travel restrictions related to the pandemic brought Spain’s tourism sector to its knees in 2020 as it welcomed just 19 million tourists.

The figure rose to 31.1 million in 2021, far below the government forecast of 45 million arrivals.

READ ALSO: Spain lifts Covid-19 checks at French border