Ferry order book: Embattled operators take stock

Ferry companies are going to great lengths in their search for shipbuilding expertise to manage fuel, emission and propulsion issues. David Mott reports

Ferry order book: Embattled operators take stock
The Ferguson shipyard in Scotland is to build a £12 million hybrid ferry for CalMac

This article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.

These are not easy times for the ferry industry as it strives to meet the stricter new emissions targets imposed on the industry in northern Europe by the European Union. But this has not stopped a reasonable flow of orders for new ships, with the twin paramount aims of economy and improving the environment looming large behind every new contract.

Sweden’s Rederi Gotland has gone back to the GSI Shipyard in China to order a US$134.9 million LNG ferry able to take 1,650 passengers and due for delivery in 2017. This is the owner’s largest single investment in its 150-year history and renews a relationship with the Chinese shipyard stretching back 15 years. When complete the new ship will be the first vessel under the Swedish flag using LNG. A spokesperson for Rederi Gotland says: “We have worked closely with the yard to produce a streamlined hull form which will cut fuel consumption. We expect the new ship to give a boost to Gotland traffic.”

Tallink and the newly merged Meyer Turku shipyard have agreed a letter of intent to build a US$285 million LNG ferry for use between Helsinki and Tallinn. The 2,800-passenger vessel, still subject to contract and financing, “aims to upgrade the quality on the route,” says Tallink director, Janek Stalmeister.

Though the use of LNG as a green power source remains the most common alternative for ferry companies, it is by no means the only one. So the most eye-catching order in recent times has been BC Ferries’ decision to build a cable ferry for the first time for its 35-vessel fleet.

The 150-passenger vessel, being built by Seaspan’s Vancouver shipyard after it won a three-yard tender, will be used from this summer on BC Ferries’ Vancouver Island services between Buckley Bay and Denman Island – a journey of 10 minutes and 1.2 nautical miles, which is claimed to be the longest cable ferry route in the world. The vessel will have one driver and two guide cables.

With no propeller required, the vessel will be three times as fuel efficient as conventional marine transport. Over an expected life span of 40 years the total saving is put at CAD$80 million at a rate of CAD$2 million a year. BC Ferries president Mike Corrigan says: “We know Seaspan will produce an excellent ship and are very excited by the environmental and economic impact of our operation. This is a much greener alternative to conventional marine transport.”

Also in the Pacific North West, the State of Alaska is adding to its fleet of 11 ferries, some nearly 50 years old, by ordering two Alaska-class vessels from Vigor’s Ketchikan yard for a total of US$101 million, which is well inside the state’s US$120 million vessel replacement budget. It appears that Vigor trimmed its price considerably to ensure that the two vessels, being built as day boats, were constructed within the state.

The vessels, which will operate between Juneau and Skagway, are the largest ever built in Alaska and are expected to provide a major boost for the economy. They will have a capacity of 450 passengers and 53 vehicles and will be delivered by 2018. John Waterhouse, chief concept engineer from Seattle-based Elliott Bay Design Group, says: “We are pleased to have been part of a project where the objectives are aligned between designer, owner and shipyard. We feel this will result in a superior vessel and a smooth construction process.”

Elliott Bay is also designing a new class of double-ended Staten Island ferry for the City of New York. The new vessel, with a capacity of 4,500 people, will be ‘storm resilient’ and able to operate in a wide range of conditions. The two vessels to be built will cost a total of US$309 million.

A Voith Schneider propulsion system will be installed on Norden-Frisia’s new double-ended ferry for the trade to the isle of Norderney. The ship will be slightly longer than the Frisia IV which has served the island for more than a decade. The specialist propellers are needed to deal with the very shallow water in the approaches to the island. Cassens Werft, the builder, says the new ship, which can take 1,340 passengers, will do eight knots in shallow water and 12 knots where it is deeper. The diesel-electric vessel is expected in service this summer.

Brittany Ferries cancelled a £125 million order when it could not get a moratorium on the new rules relating to LNG. Christophe Mathieu, deputy managing director of Brittany Ferries, says: “I think the new (emissions) legislation will have to be clarified if we are to build an LNG ship in future.”

The long-running saga of another French ferry company, loss-making Corsica operator SNCM, which wants to renew its fleet by ordering four new ships, has taken another turn as it has been placed under the protection of a Marseilles court while a buyer is sought. Veolia, a major shareholder, wants to get out of the company. Baja Ferries from Mexico has confirmed an interest.

The Ferguson shipyard has just won its first order since being rescued from administration by Jim McColl’s Clyde Blowers Capital. The yard is to build a £12 million hybrid ferry for the Scottish government through Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac). The 150-passenger vessel is, in fact, the third of three which have a low-carbon hybrid system combined with an electric battery. It should be completed in the spring of 2016. McColl says: “This first order is fantastic news for the business and its workforce at Port Glasgow.” He is investing £8 million in the yard and is rehiring all 70 staff laid off in the autumn. In a separate move the government is looking for two new car ferries for the islands and will be asking shipyards to tender.

Another shipyard which has CalMac as a client, Flensburger in Germany, has been acquired by Siem Industries, which is controlled by Kristian Siem, who used to run Norwegian Cruise Line. The yard, which has just delivered Loch Seaforth to CalMac, says its order books are full until the third quarter of 2016.

In Australia, the New South Wales government is seeking tenders for six new ferries to operate in Sydney’s inner harbour. The tenders closed in February and construction starts next year. Each vessel will carry 400 passengers. “The first vessel will be in the water in two years,” says Transport minister, Gladys Berejiklian. ‘

South Korean operator Seaspovill took delivery of its second Damen Fast Ferry in February 2015. The catamaran passenger ferry DFF 4212 will transport up to 450 people between Gangneung on the east coast and the island of Ulleung-Do.

Share this story

David Mott
By David Mott
22 April 2015

Theme picker