Bold operators to boost ferry order books

Several operators order low- and zero-emission ferries, while large fast craft are also in demand. Michele Witthaus reviews key market activity

Bold operators to boost ferry order books
Molslinjen's Express 4 is the biggest and widest vessel Austal has built since 2011

This article was first published in Spring/Summer 2018 issue of the International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Norway will receive several new ferries by 2020, all of which will operate using environmentally friendly technology.

Last year, two major Norwegian operators added to their orders for green ferries. Fjord1, which signed a NOK 1 billion (US$) contract for five all-electric ships from Havyard Ship Technology in summer 2017, ordered another two from Tersan Shipyard in Yalova, Turkey.

The first was delivered in January 2018. Meanwhile, Torghatten Nord contracted Vard Brevik to build two new LNG car and passenger ferries and ordered three more identical ferries from Tersan. They were all designed by Multi Maritime and have hybrid propulsion systems with batteries designed for fast charging at berth.

Another Norwegian operator, Fjord Line, signed a contract with Australian fast ferry specialist Austal in August 2017 for a large catamaran ferry to serve a route between Kristiansand, Norway and Hirtshals, Denmark in 2020. The ferry will carry 1,200 passengers and more than 400 cars.

Boreal kicked off 2018 by ordering an electric battery-powered car and passenger ferry. The ferry will operate a Norwegian fjord route between Kvanndal and Utne from January 2020. The 74-metre Multi Maritime design will have a fully electrical battery solution for continuous electric operations. The hull will be built by Vard Braila in Romania, while the full vessel will be constructed at Vard Brevik.

Hybrid ferries are also on the radar of other European operators. In early summer 2018, Turkish shipyard Cemre will deliver a new flagship, Victoria of Wight, to Isle of Wight-based line Wightlink. The vessel will join the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route between the UK and the island.

“The vessel incorporates hybrid technology using Wärtsilä diesel generators and battery banks, powering a Voith propulsion system,” says John Burrows, Wightlink project director. “This allows the ship to be the most energy-efficient ferry on the Solent.”

At around 90 metres in length, the ship is slightly longer than current flagship St Clare and is being built with technical support from Houlder Naval Architects.

“Victoria of Wight will be the first ferry in England to use hybrid technology,” says Burrows. “Her combination of battery banks and modern diesel generators means she will always run optimally, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing the impact on our local environment in terms of noise and emissions.”

In August 2017, Red Funnel placed an order with Wight Shipyard in East Cowes for a 41-metre high-speed catamaran for the Southampton-West Cowes route – the same yard that built Red Jet 6. The order for Red Jet 7 marks the first major investment by the consortium of UK and Canadian pension funds that acquired Red Funnel in July 2017. Red Jet 7 will undergo commissioning and sea trials this May.

“While the four-engine vessel is very similar to Red Jet 6, operational experience has led us to specify Hamilton waterjets to aid slow speed manoeuvrability,” says Kevin George, chairman and CEO of Red Funnel. “The equipment package will also enable charters and excursions to be offered outside the Solent.”

Wight Shipyard CEO Peter Morton adds: “A second Red Jet for Red Funnel is a sound endorsement of the dedicated shipyard team and their skills.”

A new Irish Ferries ‘super-cruise’ ferry for the Dublin-Holyhead route is under construction at Flensburger Schiffbau Gesellschafft (FSG). To be delivered in 2020, the 67,300gt vessel will accommodate 1,800 passengers and will be the yard’s largest-ever ferry project. An unusual feature of the ice-class ship is its three-tier freight bow loading system. In mid-2018, FSG will hand over the new W.B. Yeats to Irish Ferries.

FSG has also signed a letter of intent to build two new 212-metre ferries for TT-Line and German shipbuilder. The vessels, which will accommodate 2,000 passengers and crew, will have 1,714 car lane metres and 2,519 freight lane metres. They will serve the Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia from 2021.

Danish operator Molslinjen launched its new 158-metre ro-pax ferry Hammershus at Rauma Marine Constructions’ yard this January. The vessel, which is the yard’s first newbuild order, will enter service between Rønne and Køge this September. She was originally designed to carry 400 passengers, but later upgraded to 720.

Meanwhile, Austal is working towards the August 2018 launch of Molslinjen’s high-speed ferry Express 4, with handover scheduled for early 2019. The ferry, which will reach speeds of over 40 knots, will accommodate over 1,000 passengers and 425 cars, or 610 lane metres for trucks and 232 cars.

“Express 4 will be a true reference vessel for Austal – at 109 metres length overall, she is the biggest vessel we have built since 2011,” says Ben Marland, Austal’s vice president of sales and marketing. The newbuild is also the widest, so Austal modified its assembly facilities to accommodate the extra beam. “We really challenged ourselves as a business to produce a vessel that meets Molslinjen’s standards. The company had very specific requirements in terms of speed, efficiency, port fit and vessel turnaround time which exceeded anything that we had produced before.”

Australia-based yard Incat is to deliver Maltese operator Virtu Ferries’ new 110-metre, wave-piercing catamaran – named Saint John Paul II – at the end of 2018. It will be Virtu’s 15th fast ferry and the largest high-speed catamaran in the Mediterranean. Nearby, fast-growing Sicilian Liberty Lines (formerly Ustica Lines) has ordered four high-speed 250-passenger ships to join its fleet of 32 hydrofoils on routes in Western Sicily this year. Construction is taking place at the company’s own Liberty yard.

Across the Atlantic, Washington State Ferries will conclude its US$515.5 million shipbuilding cycle with the arrival of Suquamish, its fourth Olympic Class ferry, this autumn. The ferry is under construction at Vigor’s Harbor Island Shipyard in Washington State.

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Michele Witthaus
By Michele Witthaus
Wednesday, June 13, 2018