Ferry order book: newbuilds take their bow

Justin Merrigan highlights notable newbuilds entering service for ferry operators around the world

Ferry order book: newbuilds take their bow
Finnsirius is the first of Finnlines’ two Superstar-class ferries and was built by China Merchants Jinling Shipyard in Weihai, China

By Justin Merrigan |

The first of Finnlines’ two Superstar-class ferries, Finnsirius, is scheduled to commence operations between Finland and Sweden in September 2023.  

Built by China Merchants Jinling Shipyard in Weihai, China, Finnsirius will be the largest ro-pax vessel in the Finnlines fleet, doubling passenger capacity on the Naantali-Långnäs-Kapellskär route to 1,100. The cargo capacity will increase by nearly 24 per cent to 5,200 lane metres. 

Sister ship Finncanopus is on track for delivery by the end of the year and together the two ships are part of the company’s €500 million ($547 million) Green Newbuilding Programme. “These hybrid ro-pax vessels are not only the largest in the company fleet so far, but they transport cargo in a more sustainable manner,” says Tom Pippingsköld, president and CEO of Finnlines. “For example, the vessels have been equipped with enormous high-powered battery banks and onshore power supply to have zero emissions while at port.” 

“In addition, port operations will also be more efficient with auto-mooring. Smooth freight traffic in the Baltic Sea is the backbone of the region’s economies and national security of supply. For example, around 90 per cent of both Finnish and Swedish exports and imports are carried along shipping routes. Finnlines combines cargo with passenger traffic on the Naantali–Långnäs–Kapellskär route, and therefore our investment will strengthen services to our freight customers as well as to our passengers.”  

Antonio Raimo, the line manager at Finnlines adds: “Finnlines is proud to introduce the first Superstar, and Finnsirius will be Finnlines’ flagship in both size and technology. We will be able to offer upgraded services for passengers, including several themed restaurants, a wide range of cabin categories, meeting rooms, a large shop, lounges, to name just a few.” 

Meanwhile in the Isle of Man, hybrid ro-pax vessel Manxman started service from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in mid-August 2023. With a length of 133 metres, the £78 million ($99.2 million) Manxman is the largest-ever vessel in the company’s history.  The 24,161gt ship can accommodate 948 passengers and 237 cars and is powered by four Wärtsilä diesel engines, giving a service speed of 19 knots. 

Manxman posed several design challenges due to the increased vessel capacity and size limitations in the Port of Douglas, as well the need to tolerate harsh Irish Sea conditions throughout the annual cycle of vessel operations. It was designed in partnership with UK-based naval architects Houlder and builder South Korea-based Hyundai Mipo Dockyard. Interior design is by London-headquartered SMC Design and the vessel’s facilities are of a standard never before seen on routes to the Isle of Man, according to the operator. While deck seven has many of the communal areas, including the bar, eatery, a family area and children’s play zone, deck eight is home to exclusive lounges and cabins. The Injebreck Exclusive Lounge is available to 26 passengers, and there are seats in the Niarbyl lounge too. There are 40 cabins, which range from four-berth cabins to executive cabins, featuring a double bed and walk-out balconies. All the public areas on the vessel are fully wheelchair accessible.  

Around the coast in England, P&O Ferries’ new hybrid ship, P&O Pioneer, made its maiden voyage between Dover and Calais in June. The battery-hybrid ship has been designed with the capacity to become carbon neutral in future. The modular elements of the ship mean its electric power capabilities will develop in the future too. As technology develops and charging stations are brought in at ports, the installation of additional batteries will allow fully electric operation. 

The ship is the world’s largest double-ended hybrid ferry, with two bridges meaning there is no need for it to turn in port, saving fuel on every trip. Sister ship P&O Liberté will join the fleet later in 2023, with both ships replacing the capacity of three older vessels. 

Incat Tasmania’s landmark 130-metre fully electric catamaran for South American operator Buquebús continues to take shape in Australia. The vessel will have 40-megawatt hours of battery storage and will carry 2,100 passengers and 226 vehicles between Argentina and Uruguay at 25 knots for 90 minutes.  
“It is the world’s largest battery-powered vessel in length, in tonnage and in energy storage, by quite some margin,” says Craig Clifford, managing director of Incat, which is working with Wärtsilä on the project. 

In the same way that Incat revolutionised the ferry industry in 1990 with the introduction of the first car-carrying, wave-piercing catamarans, the builder is once again at the forefront of technology, this time leading the charge for decarbonisation. “The fully electric catamaran is a massive step forward,” says Clifford. “There is increasing pressure around the world, particularly in Northern Europe, to go green and concentrate on emissions. We may well have delivered our last diesel-powered vessel. We truly are at the precipice of a large leap in the industry.” 

Alaska Marine Highway Services (AMHS) newbuild ro-pax, Hubbard, has entered service too. The vessel is one of two Alaska-class sister ships ordered by the State of Alaska for service with AMHS as day ferries on its Lynn Canal route linking Juneau, Haines and Skagway. Both Hubbard and sister ship Tazlina were built by Vigor Shipyards in Alaska, with the latter being delivered in April 2019. A parallel project to extend the road network in the region in order to shorten the ferry voyage failed to materialise however and this in turn significantly reduced the usefulness of the vessels as originally designed. Before Hubbard was due to enter service in 2019, AMHS therefore decided it had to be redesigned with accommodation suitable for the original longer passage.  

The rework on Hubbard saw the vessel fitted with eight single-berth cabins on the Bridge Deck and a further eight twin-berth cabins installed on the Upper Deck. In addition, the vessel was fitted with a new galley and mess rooms on the Upper Deck and a new Fan Room on the Bridge Deck, while the existing port stair tower to the Bridge Deck was extended. At 5,516gt, the 85-metre ferry can carry 300 passengers and 53 vehicles. Main propulsion is provided by two Electro-Motive Diesel main engines, each developing 3,000 brake horsepower and driving Rolls-Royce propellers.  

At CMI Jinling Wehai work is progressing well on the hybrid E-Flexer building for Canada’s Marine Atlantic. The ship will be chartered from Stena RoRo for five years, with an option to purchase it after the contract expires. When delivered next year, the ferry will replace either the chartered Atlantic Vision (built in 2002) or the smaller, 1991-built Leif Ericson, and will provide crossings between North Sydney and Argentia.   

With a commitment and focus on Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, Canada’s Marine Atlantic has announced that the ship will be named Ala’suinu (pronounced Ah-laa-sue-in-ou), which means ‘traveller’ in Mi’kmaq. Marine Atlantic’s president and CEO says Truth and Reconciliation is very important to the brand and its employees. “As we looked at options for the naming of our new vessel, our employees overwhelmingly highlighted this as their top priority. We consulted with indigenous stakeholders regarding potential names that would recognise their culture and heritage in a respectful and meaningful manner. We are very proud to name our new vessel the Ala’suinu and celebrate this connection to our Mi’kmaq communities. We look forward to its arrival early next year.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 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 to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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