Willem Barentsz is the first passenger ferry to operate fully on LNG fuel
Netherlands-based operator Rederij Doeksen’s new 70-metre-long catamaran Willem Barentsz entered service in July 2020 and will be followed later this year by sister ship Willem de Vlamingh. Both vessels will operate across the Wadden Sea serving the islands of Vlieland and Terschelling from Harlingen. The pair of all-aluminium vessels have an operating speed of 14 knots and are certified to carry 66 cars and 700 passengers.
From an operational perspective, the introduction of Willem Barentsz and Willem de Vlamingh will transform the return on the route. “We are responding to the demand for more ro-pax transport capacity to these popular domestic holiday destinations,” explains Paul Melles, managing director of Rederij Doeksen. “Our routes to the Frisian Islands of Vlieland and Terschelling are relatively long. However, because we are going to replace one older ro-pax with these two new vessels, we can offer more sailings on peak days next year with departure times better suited to our customers.”
The ferries feature thoughtful interiors created by Dutch yacht design studio, Vripack. “The interior design contributes a unique world heritage experience for our passengers,” says Melles. “The contemporary design with lots of space, meandering lines and large windows all around enhances the experience of the beautiful sailing area. The many facilities, beautiful details, and comfort of the interior will contribute to a positive experience of our guests.”
Built in Vietnam, the ferries also boast impressive technical specifications. “They are the first 100 per cent single-fuel LNG ferries with brand new MTU gas engines that mechanically drive efficient CR azimuth thrusters,” says Melles. “The entire aluminum hull shape, which contributes to a light and efficient design, is propelled with relatively little power and emissions. The vessels have a heat recovery system, where residual heat is partly converted into electricity to drive the bow thrusters. As a result, we saved an extra auxiliary engine and further reduced emissions.”
The new vessels imply Rederij Doeksen’s firm commitment to LNG. “In our view LNG is still a very good transition fuel for the next 20-30 years,” explains Melles. “Availability, reliability and certifiability are important factors for shipowners when evaluating new fuels and technologies. LNG ticks all these boxes, which is far from being the case for a number of new technologies at this stage.”
In the context of the vulnerability of the Wadden Sea, reducing harmful emissions such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides is a particularly important step for the company. But Melles and his team still have an investment in the future. “With regard to further reducing the carbon dioxide, our strategy is to boost the production of bio-LNG in the region and, in time, to gradually replace the fossil LNG to bio-LNG,” he says.
Rederij Doesksen’s sustainability strategy has taken a significant step forward with these new vessels. “In keeping with our tradition, we have stuck our necks out with these ships by thinking outside the box and taking a chance with many new innovations,” says Melles. “The urgency of sustainability is tangible and necessary, and many new technologies are under development.” Consequently, the company’s next major project is to research the sustainability of the existing and somewhat older fleet.
“These are interesting times and we will not sit back when both new ships are in service,” says Melles. “We already have a fleet of ro-pax ferries and fast ferries and there is still a lot to be gained by reducing harmful and greenhouse gas emissions from these vessels. This investigation will start immediately if both Willems are in safe operation.
“Special attention will be paid to making our medium-sized fast ferries (300-400 passengers) more sustainable. This category of high-performance vessels poses a major challenge with regard to sustainability because of the large power density, low weight and limited space,” concludes Melles.
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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