Ferry order book: Building towards a greener ferry fleet

Justin Merrigan reports as ferry operators move forward with plans for environmentally friendly ferries

Ferry order book: Building towards a greener ferry fleet
KiwiRail has contracted South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard to build two new vessels for its Interislander fleet

By Justin Merrigan |

China has dominated the ro-pax shipbuilding market in recent years, but a growing number of ferry operators are now turning to South Korea for construction projects. Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD), for example, has been contracted to build operator Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s new Irish Sea ro-pax vessel, Manxman. Plans are progressing well in spite of the ongoing impact of the pandemic. The vessel is due to replace existing ferry Ben-my-Chree when it comes into service in 2023.  

“We are pleased with how plans are advancing and that, despite the pandemic, we have largely been able to stay on schedule and continue to make significant progress,” says Mark Woodward, chief executive of Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. “It is a large-scale project which naturally takes time and many hours of meticulous planning, but we are excited to move forward with the detailed design of Manxman.” 

Soon after inking the contract with Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, New Zealand operator KiwiRail named HMD as its preferred shipyard to build its two new Interislander ferries.  

According to KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller, the decision to work with HMD was a significant step forward for the new Interislander project and the culmination of a robust, competitive, year-long selection process. “Our ship procurement team and the evaluation panel, including naval architects, ship brokers and maritime lawyers, have undertaken a rigorous process to select the right shipyard and this announcement, on schedule, is a great end to the year for our team,” he says.  

“The two new ferries and the upgraded terminals in Waitohi Picton and Wellington are a major investment in the future of the Cook Strait freight and passenger services, with a significant taxpayer contribution. It’s crucial that we deliver the best outcome for New Zealand and for our passengers and customers and, with the selection of HMD shipyard, I am confident we have achieved that.”  

Miller said after the technical and commercial negotiations phase, the aim is to have the final shipbuilding contract signed by mid-2021 and construction of the ferries underway by late 2022.  

Designed by OSK-ShipTech, the 220-metre-long ro-pax vessels will use different energy sources throughout their life if these are available in New Zealand. From day one, they will have technology for battery operations when docking and plug into local power supply at each port. They will each have a capacity for 1,900 passengers and 3,600 lane metres of freight with the main deck configured to load up to 40 18-metre-long rail wagons on six tracks. 

Meanwhile in China, construction of the last two of five E-Flexer ferries for Stena Line is underway at the CMI Jinling Weihai Shipyard. The third vessel, Stena Embla, arrived on the Irish Sea in January, joining the first two, Stena Estrid and Stena Edda.  

Stena RoRo’s E-Flexer for long-term charter to DFDS, Côte d’Opale, will undergo sea trials in May ahead of her introduction between Dover, England and Calais, France in summer. Tailored for the 90-minute crossing, she differs from previous E-Flexers having, for example, a much larger retail space with 1,100 square metres in an open plan concept.  

The shipyard is also working on another E-Flexer for Brittany Ferries, the LNG-powered Salamanca, which was floated out of her building dock in January 2021. She is a sister of the recently introduced Galicia and will be followed by the last vessel in the series, Santoña. 

Not yet an order, but one to watch is the project for a 100 per cent hydrogen-powered DFDS ferry, initially slated for the Oslo-Frederikshavn-Copenhagen route in Scandinavia. A group of companies have partnered up in order to develop the vessel which will be powered by electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell system that emits only water and can produce up to 23 megawatts of power.  

“The largest fuel cell systems today produce only one to five megawatts, and the development of such large-scale fuel cell installations for an electric ferry is a monumental task,” says Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS. “We can only succeed in partnership with companies that bring together some of the globe’s finest expertise in design, approval, building, financing and operation of innovative vessels.”  

In addition to DFDS, the partnership committed to achieving this includes ABB, Ballard Power Systems Europe, Hexagon Purus, Lloyd’s Register, Knud E. Hansen, Ørsted and Danish Ship Finance. 

“Together, we expect to be able to make these fuel types and technologies commercially viable, which is key to a transition of the industry to climate neutrality,” says Carlsen. “This is also the ultimate goal of DFDS’s climate action plan.”  

The vessel has the working name Europa Seaways and is designed for 1,800 passengers with capacity for 120 trucks or 380 cars. If the project develops as predicted, the ferry could be in full operation on the route as early as 2027. 

Elsewhere in Europe, Greece’s Attica Group has signed an agreement with Norwegian shipbuilder Brødrene Aa for three 150-passenger high-speed catamarans to replace the old “Flying Dolphins” that have served destinations in the Saronic Gulf for more than 40 years. Brødrene’s one-deck Aero vessels will reduce energy consumption by about 10 per cent and reducing the company’s emissions footprint. The new craft will also be fitted with solar panels, generating the energy required for all lighting and energy consumption of the accommodation areas. Delivery is expected in early 2022. 

Norwegian operator Kolumbus and Norway’s Fjellstrand shipyard have signed a contract for the delivery of the world’s first fully electrical fast ferry. The TrAM (Transport – Advanced and Modular) project will receive economical support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, which aims to develop new methods for the design and production of zero-emissions passenger vessels. Rogaland County Council will also partially finance the construction of the craft, which will commence a trial service from Stavanger to Byøyene and Hommersåk in 2022. 

Viking Line’s new 63,813gt ro-pax cruise ferry Viking Glory, which is due to enter service on the Stockholm-Åland-Turku route in early 2022, was floated out of the building dock on 26 January. The €194 million ($231 million) LNG-powered ferry is under construction at Xiamen Shipbuilding Industry and is expected to be delivered at the end of 2021 – one year behind schedule.  

Replacing the 1988-built Amorella, the new ship will be about 11 per cent larger than the 2013-built Viking Grace, but the hull design and energy consumption have been further optimised to reduce fuel use by an estimated 10 per cent.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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