Going to Corsica by ferry is often anything but a sinecure. In order to make these long hours of crossing more pleasant, the Marseille-based company La Méridionale, which operates the link between the Phocaean city, Ajaccio and Porto-Vecchio, has invested with a Chinese shipyard in two new and particularly innovative ships. They will be designed in collaboration with two big names in architecture: interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel, an expert in luxury hotels who designed the interiors of Le Commandant Charcot for Ponant, and Nantes-based naval architecture firm Stirling Design, which is currently working on the future (and futuristic) Orient Express Silenseas.
These two ferries, 180 metres long and 31 metres wide, will be able to carry up to a thousand passengers. The 264 cabins will be able to accommodate up to four people and will be divided into seven categories. A major novelty, 21 cabins with the "Luxury" label will even have a balcony as there are on long-distance cruises. Enough to spend a night - remember that the crossing between Marseille and Ajaccio takes an average of twelve hours - very comfortable on board.
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Towards a Green Ferry
The future "lounge bar" of La Méridionale's ships. Studio Jean-Philippe Nuel/perspectivist Axe 3D Studio
But if these two boats are revolutionary, it is also from an environmental point of view, thanks in particular to their liquefied natural gas (LNG) propulsion. This fuel, the cleanest available to date for maritime transport, eliminates 99% of sulphur and fine particulate emissions and 80% of nitrogen oxide emissions. CO² emissions will be reduced by 50%, thanks to "other technological choices such as 5-bladed propellers with an optimised design, the energy optimisation of the cabins, the recovery and storage of energy in the form of hot water, or the optimisation of the hull at the appropriate speeds". Their design will also make it possible to eventually use alternative fuels that are even "greener" than LNG, such as biogas and synthetic methane.
Finally, like the company's four other vessels, these two ships will be able to dock during port calls. This technology is crucial because it helps to avoid the black smoke that gets such a bad rap from local residents. Except that, and this is where the problem lies, the port of Marseille is not yet equipped with it... Too bad for a city where the pollution caused by ferries and cruises is the subject of so much ink! However, the port will have to quickly get up to speed: this will be mandatory in Europe from 2030. In the meantime, the ships will also carry a battery allowing them to run their hotel infrastructure without polluting during stops.
In any case, this is not the first time that La Méridionale has distinguished itself by its efforts in environmental matters. In 2022, the company already launched its first "zero particles" ferry thanks to advanced filtering technology, the Piana.
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A new impetus for Corsica as a destination?
These two ferries, 180 metres long and 31 metres wide, will be able to carry up to a thousand passengers. Stirling Design International
To get on board one of these two jewels, you will still have to be patient. They are expected to be launched "in the first quarter" of 2027. Enough to make travelers want to go to Corsica again? This summer, the Isle of Beauty could not help but notice a form of disenchantment with it, with booking figures at half-mast, barely offset by a barely decent off-season. Around 7 million people flew or took a boat to Corsica from April to the end of October. This is mainly due to the increase in fares on site and to go to Corsica, including those of the ferry...