The prospect of plug-in electric ferries has been raised to improve fuel efficiency and cut emissions.

European engineering giant ABB suggests technology will become available for ferries doing trips of up to two hours – such as those in the Channel – to run purely on an electric charge.

“Ferry operators on routes between Sweden and Denmark and Germany are certainly looking to replace the combustion engine in the next generation of ships,” Eero Lehtovaara (pictured), ABB’s hybrid expert, told the Times.

“For Dover-Calais ferries, absolutely we believe electric can do those trips.”

Oslo has ferries doing 20-minute trips on electric batteries.

Ferry operators have questions about the range and recharging time of batteries, but ABB has confidence in the technology.

“It is a big leap for the operators, but we believe we are on the threshold [of migrating to hybrid] and the battery industry is anticipating that threshold, too,” Lehtovaara said.

The cruise line industry and shippers of liquefied natural gas know that they must embrace the technology from a consumer perception standpoint.

“The traditional shipping industry is coming much closer to the man in the street in its thinking on the environment and the technology solutions needed,” said Heikki Soljama, managing director of ABB ports and marine. “We believe there will be a steep increase in electrical propulsion.”

Offshore supply ships and deep-sea drilling vessels in the oil and gas industry are already embracing new technologies, according to the company.