Multi-ship contracts for several yards

A number of operators are boosting their future fleets with big orders. David Mott looks at the most lucrative agreements and hears from those that will carry out the work

Multi-ship contracts for several yards
Mlos Linien has ordered a wave-piercing catamaran from Incat
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

From multimillion-dollar contracts to fleet upgrades, a few architects and shipyards are well set up for business in the coming years. News of valuable ferry orders has come from places as far apart as Scotland and Tasmania. A contract worth £97 million for two dual-fuel islands ferries has been won by Scottish company Ferguson Marine Engineering, the rejuvenated shipyard rescued from closure at the end of 2014 by Jim McColl’s Clyde Blowers Capital. The order came from Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (Caledonian MacBrayne), the state-owned ferry company where £1 billion has now been invested since 2007.

McColl says he plans to inject up to £65 million into Ferguson and increase its workforce tenfold from its present 120 people by 2020. The new ferries will operate on both marine diesel and LNG and the first will enter service in 2018. It is claimed Ferguson is the last shipyard in the UK to be able to build merchant ships, including passenger ferries. The yard also launched five months early the last of three hybrid vessels using electrical power and diesel, also for CalMac. These vessels can cut up to 38% in fuel consumption, as evidenced by experience with the first of the trio, Hallaig.

In Hobart the world’s leading fast ferry builder, Incat, has landed a valuable order for six Sydney Harbour ferries, worth AUD$50 million, to add to four contracted for the privately-run Manley route in the harbour fixed back in May 2015. This new work comes from the New South Wales Government which runs the vessels in the harbour and will result in the first new ferries for a decade and a half.

Incat managing director, Simon Carter, says the order will secure 250 jobs at the yard and also present an opportunity to train new staff. At the same time, the company will also build a large (1,000 passengers and 417 cars plus freight) wave-piercing catamaran for Danish operator, Mols Linien. The two are no strangers to each other as the owner has now added three Incat ships to its fleet in the last four years, says chairman and founder, Robert Clifford. He says no firm orders have yet materialised for Cuba ferries after an initial flurry of interest when diplomatic relations with Washington thawed. “We understand the bureaucratic hurdles are significant,” he explains.

Nevertheless, Spanish ferry company Balearia, a front-runner to run a link to Cuba, has made a €35 million proposal to the Cuban Government to build a new ferry terminal in Havana Bay as well as constructing four solar-powered harbour boats able to carry 100 passengers each. The point is to improve links with the rest of the Caribbean; the company already has two significant consents from the US Government to meet its ultimate aim for 2016 of running the first US-Cuba link for more than 50 years.

The ferry operator has also ordered two gas/diesel ferries from La Naval (Construcciones Navales Del Norte) at a cost of €350 million. They will be the first LNG ships in Spain and among the largest in Europe. No precise dimensions are given, but they will be the largest vessels the yard has built. They will cut CO2 emissions by more than 30%. Work will start on the first vessel this year and she will be in service in the first quarter of 2018.

One of the longest ferry newbuilding orders in recent history is nearing conclusion. Progress on the Berlin, the first of two ferries ordered by Scandlines in 2012, was delayed again by technical difficulties with the main switchboard but the company finally announced a pre-Easter delivery for the vessel. Problems began when the original builder, P+S Werften, went out of business and a new yard had to be found. It was also decided that the newbuildings should be reconstructed with the second builder, Fayard, including the addition of a new deck. The schedule of the second ferry, Copenhagen, is a few months later than Berlin.

Work started at the turn of the year on a fourth Olympic-class ferry for Washington State Ferries, a troubled service both technically and with the workforce and management in recent times. The US$122million vessel has capacity for 1,500 passengers and 144 cars and will be delivered in 2018. She is being built by the Vigor (ex-Todd) Shipyard at its facility within the state. WSF is the largest ferry system within the US and carries 23 million passengers a year. But the new tonnage is needed as the ageing fleet has been troubled with breakdown and other technical problems in recent times.

In what is seen as an important contract for the Brødrene Shipyard in Norway, Boreal Transport North, a major operator of high-speed vessels, has booked three more carbon-fibre-compound vessels to follow two delivered last year. Two of these fuel-efficient catamarans will be 24 metres long and carry 147 passengers; a third is to be of 30 metres with accommodation for 199 people. Deliveries are expected at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Brødrene MD, Tor Oyvin Aa, says the yard really appreciated the new contract so soon after the two deliveries. The yard has recently acquired a substantial Chinese stake in its capital.

Also in Norway, a crucial part of a valuable 10-year pilotage contract awarded to port services group Bukser og Berging by the Norwegian Government as a privatisation, is the construction of 10 new pilot boats over the life of the contract, reported to be worth NOK200 million a year. Finance director, Arild Jaeger, says it has not yet been decided where the vessels would be ordered. The contract, which begins in the spring, covers the whole Norwegian coast and will start with 25 boats and the current pilot stations bought from the Government. One hundred more staff, mostly crew, will also be employed.

The Damen shipyard at Galati in Romania plans to deliver the second of two ice-strengthened ro-paxes to the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada in the spring of this year. The 80m-long Legionnaire, a sister to the first ship, Veteran, carries 200 passengers and 60 cars and is part of the government’s fleet replacement programme. The Damen yard is planning a service and maintenance centre at St John’s, the provincial capital.

The first LNG-powered ferry built in North America came into service late last year after what has been described as its historic launch in the summer using a system of pneumatic lift bags employed for more than 30 years around the world, but never before in Canada. The vessel, Armand-Imbeau II, is the first of two dual-fuel ferries ordered at the Davie shipyard by state-owned Société des Traversiers du Québec for use across the St Lawrence River. A second ice-classed vessel to enable year-round operation carrying 432 passengers and 115 cars, Jos Deschênes II, was due to follow four months later. It is claimed the air bag system puts less stress on the hull than a conventional launch.

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David Mott
By David Mott
Monday, April 18, 2016