How Ultramar found itself in the right place, at the right time

A chance encounter led to the UK’s Wight Shipyard Co securing a historic ferry order from Mexican operator Ultramar, starting what is set to be a prosperous long-term partnership

How Ultramar found itself in the right place, at the right time
Ultramar ordered a pair of 37-metre, 459-passenger ferries from Wight Shipyard Co

Originally established as a diving, fishing and tourist excursions operator in Mexico in 1986, Ultramar entered the passenger ferry market in 2001, working with a US-based shipyard to build a fleet of 14 ferries. However, having so many ferries under construction at the same time led to slow and delayed deliveries, causing Ultramar to lose revenue.

Ultramar’s fortunes changed at the 2017 Interferry conference when CEO Germán Orozco had a chance encounter with Peter Morton, CEO of the UK’s Wight Shipyard Co (WSC). Following this meeting, Morton visited Ultramar in Cancun to gain an understanding of the company’s operational needs. Ultramar’s chief operating officer Mauricio Orozco then headed to WSC’s yard to see first-hand the team’s efficient and high-quality work on ferries built for UK customers Red Funnel and Thames Clippers.

Impressed by WSC’s ability to deliver these vessels on time and within budget, Ultramar ordered a pair of 37-metre, 459-passenger ferries, marking the first time a UK shipyard has built ferries for Mexico in living memory. The vessels, which were designed by Australia-based naval architecture firm Incat Crowther, were also built to be 20,000 kilograms lighter than comparable models to increase fuel efficiency and minimise operating costs.

Mauricio Orozco was able to watch the build progress via time-lapse cameras set up in WSC’s building hall and communicate with the team remotely.

“It did not take long for me to feel like a member of the WSC family,” he says. “Throughout the build, the communication was exceptional, and the atmosphere was very friendly and open. The yard and team made me feel like nothing was too much trouble – their responses were always on time and they gave clear explanations about how each detail or addition could be achieved with a concise definition of time and cost implications.”

Both vessels were completed in just 10 months, allowing them to enter regular service between Cancun and Isla Mujeres on time.

“WSC’s professionalism was outstanding, with each department leader managing a specialist team of hand-picked craftsmen, all of whom were exceptionally skilled,” says Mauricio Orozco. “The finish and performance of the vessels is exceptional and greater than I could have ever anticipated. There’s a need for more vessels and there’s no question that WSC will be building them.”

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.

Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

Share this story

Alex Smith
By Alex Smith
13 October 2020

Theme picker