Making new orders in challenging times

Justin Merrigan reports on the recent orders and construction projects for ferry operators

Making new orders in challenging times
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s new vessel will be built by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Mipo Dockyard

By Justin Merrigan |

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has signed a contract for a new ro-pax ferry; the first new purpose-built vessel for the company in over 20 years. The new ship will be constructed by Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, based in Ulsan, South Korea. Work on physically constructing the replacement for the conventional ferry, Ben-my-Chree, is due to start in mid-2021 after detailed plans are finalised and agreed between builder and buyer.

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s chief executive Mark Woodward explains the company has been conducting detailed analysis and developing plans for major investment in the fleet for some time. “Following lengthy discussions, I’m delighted that we have confirmed specifications for the vessel and signed a contract with Hyundai Mipo Dockyard,” he says. “This truly is an exciting time in our history, given that it’s the year we marked our 190th anniversary. The new vessel will take the company forward to our 200th anniversary and beyond.”

The new vessel, expected to commence service in spring 2023, will be an important part of the company’s future plans, bringing high levels of onboard facilities and enhanced freight capability.

“The final specification and build programme is still in development but it is expected the new vessel will be slightly larger than the Ben-my-Chree in most respects but with considerably more passenger space,” says Woodward. “It is also intended to be more environmentally efficient and manoeuvrable in poor conditions. Factoring in various technical and logistical considerations for a new vessel, and taking into account the recent public consultation exercise where possible, our aim for when we introduce the new addition is to provide an even higher level of service to the Island community and our customers.”

Meanwhile in Norway, Boreal has ordered five 350-passenger all-electric ferries from Turkey’s Sefine Shipyard to serve the company’s new inner Oslofjord service from November 2021.

Designed by Multi Maritime, the five new 35-metre ferries will be able to carry 350 passengers, significantly more than the 236-passenger vessels they replace and will be charged from a new shoreside system at the Aker Pier terminal. Each ferry will feature two passenger decks, both with lounges offering panoramic views and one offering a large sun deck.

Boreal and Ruter signed a contract for the operation of ferry services in the inner Oslofjord in early 2020. The contract starts on 1 November 2021 and runs through to 2034, with an option to operate the routes to the islands south of Oslo and east of Nesoddtangen for another 10 years.

Elsewhere in the world, the government in the Australian state of Tasmania has decided that state-owned TT-Line should not proceed with the proposed vessel replacement contract with Finnish shipbuilder Rauma Marine Constructions (RMC), “due to Covid-19 and its economic implications for the state.”

TT-Line had signed a memorandum of understanding with RMC and commenced contract negotiations and agreed final design specifications. The TT-Line Board submitted a business case following a unanimous board recommendation that TT-Line sign a new ship construction contract with RMC. That recommendation was considered and subsequently not endorsed by the shareholder ministers.

However, RMC is currently building the ro-pax Auroria Botnia for Wasaline, scheduled for delivery in April 2021. In addition, the yard started production of Tallink Grupp’s shuttle ferry MyStar in April. “The situation is naturally unfortunate for RMC, but we are pleased to say that the withdrawal does not cause any immediate restructuring at RMC,” says Jyrki Heinimaa, the company’s CEO.

Stena Line says the construction of its two new larger E-Flexer ferries has begun in Weihai, China. The vessels were ordered in 2018 and the delivery is expected in 2022. They are the last of five vessels of the E-Flexer series Stena Line ordered from sister company Stena RoRo, that are being built at the CMI Jinling Weihai Shipyard. The first two vessels, Stena Estrid and Stena Edda, entered service on the Irish Sea in early 2020. The third, Stena Embla, is in the final stages of construction and is expected to go in to service on the Belfast-Liverpool route according to plan in January 2021.

“We continue to build on our successful ro-pax concept with a mix of freight and passengers,” says Niclas Mårtensson, CEO of Stena Line. “By modernising and standardising our vessel fleet, we ensure a reliable operation can, in an even better way, support and grow with our customers.”

German shipbuilder Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) announced in June that Brittany Ferries had terminated its contract for the construction of Honfleur, its new LNG ro-pax ferry. Honfleur was scheduled to enter service in June 2019 but delivery was postponed due to the continued financial problems faced by the yard’s management. In a statement, Brittany Ferries said: “The change of the main shareholder in September 2019 with the arrival of Lars Windhorst and the Tennor group did not allow the yard to return to growth and competitiveness.” If, and when, the ship will be finished is so far unclear.

Irish Continental Group, owner of Irish Ferries, has also cancelled its order for FSG to build a second vessel, which had been due for delivery in September. The company has now started the process of finding another yard to build the vessel.

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.

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