Spanish ferry operator Baleària has received a ferry upgrades grant of up to €11.8m from the European Commission to upgrade five of its vessels to operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The grant has been provided under the European Union’s (EU) Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) initiative and represents 20% of the investment to be made by Baleària in the retrofitting project.

Baleària, however, asked for a maximum grant of €15m for the project, which is scheduled to begin later this year and will be completed in 2021.

The ferry upgrades are expected to address the main challenge of Baleària by implementing the use of LNG, a fossil fuel with reduced environmental impact.

Baleària president Adolfo Utor said: “Our goal is to become the shipping company in the medium term with the most sustainable and eco-efficient fleet in the sector.”

“Our goal is to become the shipping company in the medium term with the most sustainable and eco-efficient fleet in the sector.”

The retrofit will include the remotorisation of the Naples, Abel Matutes, Sicily, Bahama Mama, and Martín i Soler vessels. Naples will be the first among the lots to change its engines for LNG operations starting next month.

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The project is expected to enable Baleària to reduce the emissions of more than 45,000t of carbon dioxide and 4,400t of nitrogen oxide (NOx) annually, while completely eliminating the release of sulfur and particulate matters.

The ferry upgrades project will also comply with the objectives of the EU Regulation 1315/2013 in terms of efficiency, sustainability and cohesion, as well as support the decarbonisation of maritime transport.

Italian shipyards Visentini Baleària is currently building two smartships powered by LNG on behalf of Baleària.