Ferry Order Book: Big ferries stay popular

Future Brexit uncertainty is not stopping European ferry operators from modernising their fleets with new tonnage. David Mott looks at the 2017 order book

Ferry Order Book: Big ferries stay popular
Megastar, Tallink's new LNG ferry, started service between Helsinki and Tallinn in January 2017 (Image: Tallink)
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Despite the general economic uncertainty resulting from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, major operators in Europe’s ferry market are continuing to invest in expensive new ships. Similarly, although Turkey has a growing involvement in the current Middle East crisis and had an alleged political coup in July 2016, shipyards like Cemre and Sefine continue to win work from Northern Europe.

At the end of 2016, French operator Brittany Ferries ordered a 1,700-passenger, LNG-powered vessel from the Flensburger yard in Germany. The vessel will operate between Portsmouth, UK and Caen, France and most passengers are expected to be British.

Brittany Ferries’ newbuild is part of the company’s environmental initiative, which was first launched with STX France a couple of years ago. Although no new ship came from this initial agreement, it did result in a £65 million (US$81.3 million) investment in fuel-purifying scrubbers that were fitted on six of the operator’s 10 ferries at several different shipyards.

“Despite Brexit, we remain confident in our ability to grow our route network,” says Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries’ chief executive, refusing to confirm the value of the new ship until the deal has been confirmed later in spring 2017.

Major Baltic operator Viking Line has broken new ground by going to China for a large new ferry. This spring, the line will ratify a €190 million (US$201 million) letter of intent with the Xiamen Shipyard for a 2,800-passenger LNG vessel, which will serve Viking’s main route from Turku, to Åland (both in Finland) and Stockholm, Sweden from 2020. There is an option for a sister ship. Stena Line is another major ferry line building four ro-pax ships in China, but has still not decided whether to use LNG or methanol to fuel the ferries.

Scandlines’ much-delayed order for two Gedser-Rostock ships was almost completed when the second ferry, Copenhagen, started service in December 2016. However, there was another month’s delay before both ships were finally completed after parts of their electrical machinery were rebuilt for better performance. “We decided to rebuild as quickly as possible and now we have both new vessels, the service will be at optimum level,” says Søren Poulsgaard Jensen, CEO of Scandlines, estimating that the final cost of both ferries reached €280 million (US$297 million).

Major European ferry company Fjord Line won a competitive tender to operate some sailings out of Sandefjord, Norway to Strömstad, Sweden. Fjord Line expects this new route will double capacity requirements, so it is in the market for a new hybrid vessel. Rival Color Line is already building a new vessel for the route.

Fjord Line’s LNG ferries Sandefjord and Bergensfjord, built in 2013 and 2014 respectively, are to be fitted with 60 new cabins, adding to the 306 they currently have and representing a 20% jump in passenger capacity. The work will be carried out by original builder Fosen in 2017.

The similarly styled, but much older, operator Fjord 1 has ordered three diesel-electric ferries from Havyard Ship Technology at a total cost of NOK500 million (US$60 million). The group has been awarded seven new routes by Hordaland County in Norway after a successful environmental tender.

Another Norwegian line, Torghatten Nord plans to build five new 499-passenger, gas-electric ferries on the back of winning a contract to service Norway’s third largest ferry route between Helhjem and Sandvikvag.

In Finland, Tallink started to operate Megastar, its new LNG-powered fast ferry on the route between Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia at the end of January. The 2,850-passenger shuttle vessel was built by Meyer Turku in Finland at a cost of US$250 million.

In the fast ferry business, Tasmania-based market leader Incat has won an order to build a 110-metre catamaran for Virtu Ferries in Malta. When completed, the ferry will be the largest in the Mediterranean and will operate services to Sicily from late 2018.

“Incat is kicking goals,” remarks Robert Clifford, Incat chairman. “A total of seven deliveries in the past 18 months and a further seven due in 2017 makes this our best order book for many years. The fast ferry market is very much alive and well.”

Rival Australian builder and naval specialist Austal has secured a €15.5 million (US$16 million) deal to build a 56-metre fast ferry for Forde Reederei Seetouristik in Germany, its sixth commercial order of the year. Meanwhile, the Italian Morace family is modernising its Liberty Lines (ex Ustica) fast ferry fleet by building five new hydrofoils at its HSC shipyard in Trapani, Sicily. The 250-berth vessels are priced at €8 million (US$8.5 million) each, and one new vessel will be delivered per year from 2017.

In the UK, P&O Ferries is rumoured to be in the market for new ferries for the English Channel and has also invested £8.5 million (US$10.1 million) to refurbish its mid-1980s ships, Pride of New York and Pride of Bruges. The work has gone to Remontowa in Poland and the company expects this will guarantee service on the Zeebrugge, Belgium route for another 10 years.

The ever-busy Remontowa will also construct two new vessels for the world-famous Woolwich Ferry, which has been free to passengers since the service started operating on the River Thames in London in 1889. The newbuilds will be fitted with Norwegian electrical systems. Also in London, MBNA Thames Clippers has ordered two 170-berth catamarans from Isle of Wight-based Wight shipyard at a cost of £6.3 million (US$7.8 million).

Turkish shipyard Cemre has cut steel for UK operator Wightlink’s new 1,000-passenger, hybrid ferry which will serve the Portsmouth, UK to Fishbourne, Isle of Wight route. Funding for the ship came from a £45 million (US$56.3 million) investment fund and the ferry will be the most environmentally friendly ship to ever operate on the Solent when she debuts in summer 2018.

Basto VI, the first of three ferries being built in Turkey at the Cemre and Sefine yards for Basto Fosen, has been completed for service.

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