Sustainable option reaps rewards on firm’s 143-year-old ferry route

Changing lanes

Switching to Kongsberg Maritime’s environmentally friendly waterjets during an upgrade to their vessel resulted in huge gains for family-run firm AG EMS

Claus Hirsch, the fleet manager with AG EMS, is a likeable and personable individual. His easy demeanour suggests that he is contented with his lot in life, and no one would blame him for that. The company he works for is a family-run concern with a benevolent attitude towards its employees and a palpable respect for the precious environmental features in its operational base of Lower Saxony, Germany; an area teeming with UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

With its headquarters in the historic seaport of Emden, AG EMS has been operating a ferry service to and from the beautiful island of Borkum for the past 143 years. In addition to this, the company’s benign stewardship manifests itself all over the island, with hotels, electric buses, trains and light aircraft all operating under the AG EMS umbrella. 

“We always keep an open mind,” Claus remarks. “We are always looking for new business opportunities. Nevertheless, we’re a small and tight-knit company, and we look out for each other in every venture. Our CEO always says, ‘everybody is responsible for everybody else’ – and if I want to ask them something, I only have to walk up three flights of stairs to do so.”

However enviable this combination of civilised working conditions in an idyllic location may sound, it’s as well to remember that AG EMS has been buffeted by circumstance just like the rest of us over the past two years. It’s perhaps a measure of the firm’s policy of far-sightedness rather than short-term gain that it was still quietly making prudent investments and notching up success stories even in the midst of the pandemic. 

One such story concerns the replacement of the waterjets on its almost 40-metre passenger ferry M/S Nordlicht – an upgrade which brought about a remarkable 26% improvement in energy efficiency.