Ferry order book: all eyes on Tasmania

Ferry lines around the globe are focusing on sustainability and technological innovation
Ferry order book: all eyes on Tasmania

H Krüger

Caledonian MacBrayne is expecting two new Islay vessels in 2024 and 202, respectively

By Justin Merrigan |

Tasmanian government-owned ferry line TT-Line Company, which trades as Spirit of Tasmania, will host Interferry’s annual conference in Hobart in November 2023. As the company welcomes ferry industry delegates from all over the world, it will be edging closer to the completion of two new 1,800-passenger ro-pax cruise ferries, which are under construction at Rauma Marine Construction’s (RMC) yard in Rauma, Finland.  

RMC laid the keel for the first ship, Spirit of Tasmania IV, in October 2022 and cut the steel for Spirit of Tasmania V in December. Specifically designed to operate on the challenging route across the Bass Strait between Geelong, Victoria, in mainland Australia and Devonport, Tasmania, the vessels will be 40 per cent larger than the two sister ships they are replacing – Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II. The first ferry will be completed at the start of 2024 and the second will be finished later that same year. 

With an overall length of 212 metres and a beam of 31 metres, the vessels are the first the company will own that are purpose built for the Bass Strait. “As the new dimensions indicate, these ships are much bigger than the current vessels – featuring substantially larger capacity for passengers, passenger vehicles and freight – and will be a major contributor for the economy of Tasmania for 30 years to come,” says Bernard Dwyer, managing director and CEO of TT-Line Company.  

Hobart-based high-speed craft designer and builder Incat Tasmania has also been in the global ferry spotlight due to its partnership with long-term South American customer Buquebús. 

In 2022, Incat Tasmania cut the first plate for the operator’s new 130-metre fast catamaran – the ninth vessel it has built for Buquebús. When it debuts in 2025, it will be the world’s largest aluminium ferry, with capacity for 2,100 passengers and 220 cars, and will operate between Argentina and Uruguay. 

Initially, the ferry was intended as a dual-fuel craft, the second such vessel to be built by Incat Tasmania. However, Incat Tasmania and Buquebús are now advancing to use battery-electric power so it can be the world’s first large, lightweight, zero-emissions ferry.  

Meanwhile in Europe, Scotland’s Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) placed a £91 million ($109 million) order for two new battery hybrid ro-pax ferries with Turkey’s Cemre Shipyard in 2021. By January 2023, Cemre had laid the keel for the first vessel and cut the steel for the second, putting it on track to deliver them for operator Caledonian MacBrayne’s Islay operation in October 2024 and early 2025, respectively.  

“The team at Cemre is delivering each stage within the agreed timeline,” says Kevin Hobbs, chief executive of CMAL. “I’m sure this will be welcome news for island communities to see the build programme get underway for these much-needed vessels.” 

The Scottish government has since prioritised additional funding to enable CMAL to accelerate plans for additional vessels, which will also be built at Cemre and to the same specification as the Islay ferries. This will allow CMAL to expedite its fleet replacement schedule and offer a more standardised vessel type that can be used on various routes, providing potential economies of scale and enhanced public value. 

“It allows us to increase the pace of vessel replacement plans in line with our ambitions,” says Hobbs. “This additional investment will bring two new vessels to the fleet, meaning a total of six major vessels will be replaced by 2026. Communities in Harris and North Uist will also benefit from a two-vessel service, which will strengthen overall resilience.” 

Finnish operator Finnlines’ ro-pax newbuilding programme is also proceeding well. China Merchants Jinling Shipyard launched the first Superstar vessel, Finnsirius, at its Wehai yard in August 2022 and did the same with the second, Finncanopus, on 30 December 2022. The sister vessels will operate on Naantali–Långnäs–Kapellskär route between Finland, Åland Islands and Sweden. The 235-metre-long vessels will accommodate 1,100 passengers, double the capacity of the current vessels on the route. Freight capacity will also increase from around 4,000 lane metres to 5,200. The new ro-pax vessels are part of Finnlines’ €500 million investment programme. 

December 2022 also saw the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s new Manxman complete initial sea trials to test propulsion equipment, controls, mooring, navigation, radio and anchor equipment. South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard will carry out further trials to test speed, stabilisers and sound and vibration levels closer to the vessel’s completion. The ship is expected in service in June 2023. 

China’s Guangzhou Shipyard International (GSI) floated out the second of two new large ro-pax ferries for Italian operator Moby Lines at its yard on 1 December 2022. Moby Legacy is a sister to Moby Fantasy, which was floated out in November 2021 and due to debut on the Livorno-Olbia-Livorno route to Sardinia from the end of March 2023. GSI has also started construction on the first of two 218-metre ro-pax ferries for MSC Group, which will be operated by Italian line GNV and delivered in late 2024 and early 2025. MSC Group’s contract with the Chinese yard also includes an option for a further two ferries. 

Deliveries have been coming thick and fast too. RMC delivered MyStar to Tallink Superfast, a subsidiary of Tallink Grupp, in December. The most technologically advanced and energy-efficient vessel in Tallink’s fleet, MyStar is 212.4 metres long and can carry 2,800 passengers. The ship is using diesel-electric propulsion combined with fixed pitch propellers for efficiency. The vessel has a design speed of up to 27 knots and joins Megastar and Star on the shuttle service route between Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland.  

“MyStar’s much-awaited arrival marks the beginning of yet another new era for the Tallinn-Helsinki route, with customer service standards now even higher, passenger comfort even greater and sustainability even more at the heart of our operations,” says Paavo Nõgene, Tallink Grupp CEO. “The world has changed greatly since we started building our newest fleet member in spring 2020 with more hurdles along the way than we have ever experienced, but we have met all the challenges head on and are happy that our beautiful MyStar has now been completed.” 

Also in December, China Merchants Jingling Shipyard delivered Stena RoRo’s 214.5-metre-long, LNG-powered E-Flexer Santoña, two months ahead of schedule. Operated by Brittany Ferries, Santoña is a sister to Salamanca (delivered in November 2022) and has a design speed of 23 knots, 2,714 metres of freight lane, and capacity for 1,015 passengers. The ferry will be followed by E-Flexer 11 (to be named Saint-Malo) and 12 in 2024 and 2025, replacing two of the longest-serving ships in the fleet, Bretagne and Normandie.  

P&O Ferries has also taken delivery of the 47,394gt P&O Pioneer, the first of two large double-enders for its Dover-Calais service, from GSI Shipyard. Sister P&O Libertè will follow in the fourth quarter of 2023. The world’s largest double-ended ferries will also be the largest ferries to ever operate between Dover, UK, and Calais, France, and their unique design will ensure faster turnaround times at both ports. Designed by Denmark’s OSK ShipTech, the 230.5-metre-long by 30.8-metre-wide ferries will be able to carry 1,500 passengers and 2,658 lane metres of freight. 

Italy’s Cantiere Navale Visentini shipyard delivered Corsica Linea’s LNG ro-pax ferry, A Galeotta, in December too. The ship is Corsica Linea’s first-ever newbuild and serves the link between Marseille and Ajaccio/Bastia in France. The profile of Visentini vessels is instantly recognisable around the world, with their Naos design, simple accommodation, good vehicle deck layout and efficient running costs proving attractive to many well-known operators. This design has been refined significantly for A Galeotta, which has a longer and wider hull and capacity for 650 passengers, 2,500 metres of freight and 150 cars. Visentini is also constructing a larger version of this design for a 1,000-passenger vessel that will be chartered to Polferries in the second half of 2024. 

Germany’s TT-Line took delivery of its second green ship, Peter Pan, on 28 November, debuting it on the route between Trelleborg, Sweden, and Travemünde, Germany, alongside its sister, The ships are TT-Line’s greenest to date and carry 800 passengers and over 200 trucks. 

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) took delivery of Japan’s first LNG-fuelled ferry in January 2023. Sunflower Kurenai operates for MOL subsidiary Ferry Sunflower between Osaka and Beppu. The ship is the first of two 2200-metre-long ro-pax vessels from Mitsubishi at Shimonoseki; the second, Sunflower Murasaki, will follow in May. 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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