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Electric solar-powered ferry for Shoreham Beach?

The Shoreham Beach Neighbourhood Forum has been running a series of workshops asking local residents and businesses what improvements they would like over the next fifteen years. Transport and movement is a major concern. Many complain about too many cars on the beach, too much traffic congestion, and the woes of the Saltings roundabout. The majority of residents live east of Ferry road but have to drive to the other side of the peninsula to cross the water. Some residents are concerned about the clash between cyclists and pedestrians crossing Adur Ferry Bridge.

Many residents have suggested a ferry service or water taxi for pedestrians and cyclists, easing the burden on existing road networks and by-passing the most dangerous section of the A259 Brighton Road.

A water taxi shortcut across the Harbour Mouth and/or to Southwick/Portslade Beaches has the potential to improve air quality, provide more opportunities to enjoy our waters and encourage healthier journeys by cycle or foot. But just how feasible is it and can a ferry be good for the environment.

We are blessed to live in the sunniest part of England… in an exciting age of technical advancement. All around the world, from Switzerland to Botswana, people are starting to travel in clean, silent, reliable electric vessels - powered by the sun. Here are just a few examples. Could any of these be used in Shoreham? Are you an expert in this field, let us know your thoughts.

Large ferry - Chichester, England

Not far from here you’ll find a silent, clean ferry that regularly carries 50 people around Chichester harbour. Just imagine we had a similar service on the eastern edge of Shoreham beach peninsula.

The Swiss-made Aquabus C60 is a pollution-free, solar-powered catamaran that can reach 11 knots while transporting up to 60 people. This vessel began life at the 2002 Swiss National Expo as one of three, ferrying people continuously for six months between May and October.

Made by MW Lines (Grove Boats), this vessel is driven by two electric motors, one in each hull. Batteries are normally charged by the sun but can also be plugged into the National Grid if necessary. The Aquabus C60 is available in 100% electric or hybrid mode and was the first vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean using solar energy (

Medium-sized ferry - Serpentine, London, England

The Solar Shuttle has curved panels which help to shield passengers from the weather. It carries up to 40 passengers across the ecologically sensitive Lake Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park between March and September.

Small ferry - Botswana, Africa

On the other side of the world in Botswana, southern Africa’s first solar powered boat was launched by Chobe Game Lodge in 2015. In the few months the boat has saved approximately 1,600kg of CO2 emissions. It will be part of a fleet of five all-electric safari boats at the game lodge.

The conversion to electric powered boats is certainly a winner for the environment but it is also a big plus for the safari experience. Noise and vibrations are reduced to an absolute minimum so guests are able to appreciate the tranquillity of the Chobe River.

Chobe Game Lodge have calculated ROI is in the region of 33%. A wise investment given the uncertain future for fossil fuel prices and reliable electricity supply in years to come.

Solar Boat Trips - Inverness, Scotland

The New Era is licensed to carry a maximum of 8 passengers and has space for one wheelchair or bicycles (

The clean, cleaning boat

Litter is literally a huge problem in our seas, so it is important to stop as much possible at the harbour mouth. This solar-powered unit collects floating waste (plastics, polystyrene, algae, wood ...) and stores it on board in a dedicated container. A mechanism for the skimming of hydrocarbons is available as an option.


Main Benefits of Solar Ferries

(electrically driven solar catamaran vs conventional fuel driven vessel)

  • Silent - no disturbance to birds, animals or humans

  • Clean - no emissions, no risk of fuel or oil leaks

  • Calm and steady - a twin hull configuration does not create a wash, therefore less estuary bank erosion

  • Economic - no fuel and if it needs electricity from the grid, this is cheaper and easier to handle than boat fuel

  • Easy maintenance


Answering the Skeptics

Can solar panels work in cloudy, dark or overcast conditions?

Solar technology and our understanding of it is constantly improving. On a partly cloudy day, the solar panels often produce more power than a clear day. Known as the “edge of cloud” effect, this happens when the sun passes over the outer edge of a cloud, magnifying the sunlight. Solar panels are actually more efficient at cooler temperatures than hot ones, Some solar ferry manufacturers report their vessels will even pick up a slight electric charge from moonlight!

What about wasted excess energy?

Some solar ferries are able to store reserve power for evening cruises and or the excess electricity can be used to power other devices or be fed back into the national grid.

Is solar panel technology too experimental and risky?

Solar technology has been around for over 150 years and electric motors have been around even longer. The comparatively recent re-focus on efforts to improve energy storage and solar efficiency are making it more affordable and more commonplace.

Is it a viable business?

In Shoreham this could be a multi-purpose service:

  1. ferrying passengers between two or more fixed routes at peak commuting times,

acting as a water taxi taking, i.e. taking mariners to and from moored vessels. This could be booked via VHF channel and mobile phone,

  1. providing pre-booked, customised boat trips,

  2. scooping up litter in the harbour area before it floats out to sea - possibly getting paid by the authorities on a weight-based rate system,

  3. ​there could be a booking office which also serves as a shop or waterfront storage space for existing Watersport service providers.

What about the seasons and tides?

Small ferries can be highly manoeuvrable in shallow water. It could just be a simple boat with an electric outboard motor which is charged by solar panels installed on the shore. If necessary, the ferry could be inflatable (see and a compact motor plus roll-up solar modules do not require much space to be stored away in the harshest winter months.

How does this relate to the emerging Neighbourhood Plan

An attractive river crossing for pedestrians and cyclists would conform with Adur Local Plan Policy 28, Transport and Connectivity - which points to the need for new development to ‘…provide for improvements to the road network… and to encourage proposals to extend the existing cycle network and pedestrian facilities linking urban areas, countryside and coast…”

The Regeneration of Shoreham Harbour

More destinations (shops, workplaces, housing) in the Shoreham Harbour area will bring more traffic. Shoreham beach residents could use a ferry service to ease congestion.



“Ferry service at this end of the beach (Shoreham Sailing Club)”“Agreed – especially for kids going to the Academy” “How about a small ferry? (Between West Pier and Ballards)”“Maybe only for 2 x 1 our slots per day during peak times. This is what happens on the River Avon at Bantham in Devon, and presumably on other estuaries on the South “Coast Way ‘Tidal’ ferry.” “Great idea! P.S. See Itchinor to Bosham” “Great idea! Second that!” “Third that!” “Fourth that!” “Would depend on tides!” “With respect it would not (depend on tides). The harbour entrance is dredged deep.” “To be viable, you would probably need a local building (could house a chandlery [shop selling nautical items], boat repairs, wind surging sales [windsurfing?], etc). There would appear to be room between the car park and the fort for such a facility! (suggest you ask views of sports shop in Ferry Road)” "Maybe solar-powered like the serpentine in London?" "yes, a solar-powered ferry (I know a supplier!) at peak times to bypass dangerous stretch of A259”


Are you an expert in this field? Let us know your thoughts below or contact the Transport Group Leader to get involved.

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