Ferry order book: yards capitalise on new possibilities

David Mott looks at the implications for builders of recent global developments, including the reopening of Cuba ferry routes after 55 years

Ferry order book: yards capitalise on new possibilities
Societe des Traversiers du Quebec's F.-A.-Gauthier is the frist LNG ferry in North America
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review.

Notable among those wanting to run a service to Cuba now that diplomatic ties have been restored is Balearia, an established Spanish ferry operator which has been active in the Caribbean since 2011. It says it has an operating licence from the Obama Government and has already pinpointed an Incat 74m craft, Pinar del Rio, for the operation. Chairman, Adolfo Utor, says: “Now we have a licence from the US we hope to be the first to run a service.” Attica also claims to have a licence for its Superfast Ferries (USA) line, as does Havana Ferry Partners from Fort Lauderdale. The link would be between Havana and Miami, the home to many exiled Cubans. Ferry services between the two nations have lain idle for 55 years since the US imposed a trade embargo. So it is very likely new tonnage will be wanted.

International Catamarans (Incat), the world’s leading builders of fast ferries, has received several inquiries from companies keen to operate a ferry service between the United States and Cuba. “Yes, we have dealt with several inquiries, but there are no firm orders yet…Some are enthusiastic entrepreneurs new to the shipping industry” is the word from founder and chairman Robert Clifford through a close associate.

In other regions, the Tasmanian-based Incat has delivered an 85m, 692-passenger wave-piercing catamaran to the venerable Japanese operator Sado Kisen as its first fast craft in a fleet of conventional vessels. Also, bound for Europe on a heavy-lift ship are two river commuter craft built for Thames Clippers. Much closer to home the company is building four catamarans (two of 24m and two of 33m) for operation in Sydney Harbour by Manly Fast Ferry, which has been awarded a five-year operating contract by the NSW Government. Delivery will be next year.

Just nine months after ordering what it described as its largest single investment in its 150-year history, Rederi Gotland, Sweden’s leading passenger operator, has doubled it by ordering a second LNG ship from the GSI shipyard in China for a cost of US$134.9 million. The 1,650-passenger vessels will be the first LNG ships to fly the Swedish flag when they are delivered in 2017 and the following year. According to Gotland, a great deal of work has gone into the design of the ships to make them as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. They will have a two-tank LNG system. OSK-Ship Tech was a major contributor to the design.

Asia’s two largest cruise ferries, Bo Hai Ma Zhu and Bo Hai Zuan Zhu, have been completed by the Huanghai shipyard in China and are now in service for Bohai Ferry. They are more than 34,000gt each.

BC Ferries, the largest ferry group in North America, has chosen two European yards out of a short-list of three for a mid-life upgrade and conversion to LNG for its two largest vessels, Spirit of British Columbia and Spirit of Vancouver Island. The first named will be worked on between autumn 2017 and the following spring; her sister will follow in 2018/19. The three yards involved, Remontowa of Poland, Fincantieri in Italy and Seaspan Vancouver, can expect a contract by the autumn of this year, says Mark Wilson, the owner’s VP Engineering. The two 2,100-passenger ferries were both built just over 20 years ago. Also in Canada, the Société des Traversiers du Québec has taken delivery of its ground-breaking ferry, F.-A.-Gauthier. The CAD$148 million vessel, built by Fincantieri as the first gas ferry constructed in Italy, is also the first LNG ferry in service in North America – at least for the time being. The vessel, with a capacity of 800 passengers and 180 cars, expects to carry from 180,000 to 200,000 passengers and between 85,000 and 95,000 cars across the St Lawrence River. The two-hour navigation by sea will save motorists approximately a 10-hour drive.

There seems to be an affinity between Norwegian owners and Turkish shipbuilders. Further evidence of this came when Fjord 1, which has been contemplating a merger with another major Norwegian operator, Norled, ordered two double-enders for 190 passengers and 600 cars from the ADA Shipyard. They are expected to be in service next year. At the same time the first of two LNG ferries for Norway’s Boreal Transport Nord has been launched by the Turkish yard for towing to the Fiskerstrand yard, also in Norway, for fitting out. The new vessels, designed by Multi-Maritime, are similar to four ferries delivered in 2013-14 except that they are LNG powered. Both are expected to be delivered by the end of this year.

Hy-Line Cruises has confirmed an order with Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in the US for a 47m Incat Crowther Catamaran 12 months after it announced plans to introduce a new ferry on its Hyannis to Nantucket route in the US North East. She will enter service next year. According to Gladding’s president, Peter Duclos, the ferry will have a top speed of over 30 knots. The boat, he says, can keep to schedule on three of its four engines. “This kind of margin and redundancy is prudent for a ferry that will operate close to 5,000 hours a year,” he says.

Vigo-based Barreras shipyard, majority owned by Pemex, the Mexican oil company, has landed a €125 million contract from Algerie Ferries to build a large ro-pax to carry 2,000 passengers and 700 vehicles from early 2017.

Caledonian Maritime Assets, the operating company of state-run Scottish Islands operator, Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), has received tenders from a number of shipyards for the design and construction of two 100m-long LNG vessels with capacity for 1,000 passengers and 127 cars or 16 lorries. The company says it wants a design capable of operating its Clyde and Hebrides routes at 14.5 knots year-round from 2017. It had been expected a contract would be announced by the end of June, but the company now says it will be later this summer. One of the tenders is likely to have come from the Ferguson shipyard, saved from administration last year by Jim McColl’s Clyde Blowers Capital.

Wightlink, now with a new owner, is to spend £45 million on an upgrade of its central Portsmouth/Fishbourne route across the Solent which will include a new 1,000-passenger flagship with the ability to use both conventional fuel and LNG. No shipyard has yet been designated. Two new Griffon hovercraft will be in service for Hovertravel, also to the Isle of Wight, by next year.

New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, has announced a new ferry network for the city from 2017 which will attract annual operating subsidies of US$10 to US$20 million on five new routes. Private ferry operators are being asked to tender for the work.

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David Mott
By David Mott
Monday, December 28, 2015