Operators worldwide order fast, smart and sustainable ferries

A glance at the global ferry order book tells the story of a buoyant sector with an appetite for innovative solutions. Jacqui Griffiths reports

Operators worldwide order fast, smart and sustainable ferries
Stena Estrid is the first in a series of 10 E-Flexer ferries being built by AVIC Weihai

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

By 2026 the global passenger ferry market is expected to achieve an annual growth rate of 3.4%, driven by continued adoption of more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vessels. A packed ferry order book testifies to that trend.

Notable imminent arrivals include Stena’s ground-breaking series of E-Flexer ro-pax ferries, which will take to the seas late in 2019 when Stena RoRo takes delivery of Stena Estrid from Chinese shipbuilder AVIC Weihai Shipyard. Stena selected the shipyard to deliver 10 vessels for its own fleet while offering the flexibility for adaptation to suit other clients. The ferries’ unique hull shape promises to reduce resistance, and they will be able to carry 50% more vehicles than a standard ro-pax vessel. In addition to world-class fuel efficiency, the ferries’ LED lighting and select lubricants and coolants will also help reduce environmental impact.

Stena Edda, the second E-Flexer which is under construction for Stena Line, was floated out at the AVIC Weihai Shipyard in April. “Stena Edda will deliver many benefits to our freight and travel customers, including faster and easier loading and unloading with drive-through decks and new port infrastructures,” said Paul Grant, Stena Line’s trade director for Irish Sea North, in a press release.

High-speed catamarans are also in demand, and a few firsts are in the pipeline. For example, the lightweight, aluminium high-speed passenger ferry recently ordered by Korea’s Dolphin Shipping will be the first locally built high-speed ferry to operate between Pohang in mainland Korea and the island of Ulleung-do. Tentatively named Dolphin 3, the vessel will be designed by Australia-based Incat Crowther, which will work with Korean shipbuilder Khan Co.

Meanwhile, Argentine operator Buquebus has contracted Incat Tasmania to build a 130-metre catamaran, which is set to be the largest aluminium ferry ever built. The ship will have four dual-fuel engines and capacity for 2,100 passengers and 220 cars. This will be the ninth vessel the shipyard has built for Buquebus and will join its sister ships serving ports on the River Plate between Argentina and Uruguay.

In the Mediterranean market, newbuild projects continue to demonstrate the industry’s focus on efficiency, green credentials and digital technology. Marie Curie, the second of Baleària’s LNG newbuilds, which uses digital technology to increase energy efficiency, has been delivered by the Cantiere Navale Visentini shipyard and started operations at the end of July. Baleària continues to pursue LNG innovation with Eleanor Roosevelt, the world’s first fast-ferry powered by dual LNG engines, scheduled to start operations in summer 2020.

“Baleària is leading this worldwide pioneer project with the support of outstanding international partners,” says Adolfo Utor, chairman of Baleària. “These innovative engines will allow the fast-ferry to reach an operating speed of 35 knots (with a maximum speed of more than 40 knots) all while maintaining the highest levels of comfort. The twin-hull catamaran will feature 400 nautical miles of autonomy with the two LNG storage tanks.”

Mediterranean operator Moby, owned by Onorato Armatori, has commissioned two luxury ro-pax ferries – with an option to add two further vessels – and the first is scheduled for delivery in 2022. The ships will be designed by Danish naval architecture company OSK-ShipTech and built by Guangzhou Shipyard International in China. “On a global scale this is in any possible way a significant order in the current ro-pax market,” said Jacob Thygesen, CEO of OSK Group, in a press release. “The fact that OSK-ShipTech is onboard a contract of this size is something we are very proud of and goes to show that we are among the ship designers globally who are relevant when it comes to the world’s largest design projects.”

New challenges are also emerging, as the efforts involved in perfecting innovative new vessels and a growing trend for ferry companies to work with shipyards further afield adds time and complexity to some projects. Dutch operator Rederij Doeksen and Strategic Marine’s Vung Tau, Vietnam shipyard have put great effort into building its two new ferries. They will be the Netherlands’ first single-fuel LNG ferries and the first ships in the world with single-fuel LNG engines directly driving a fixed propeller. However, delays have prompted the operator to move the vessels closer to home. They arrived in Harlingen at the end of May for the remaining outfitting work to be done by Nesta Shipping Company.

Shipyard delays at Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft have also affected Brittany Ferries’ hotly anticipated Honfleur. The new ferry, which promises significant technical and environmental enhancements, will now be delivered in time for the summer 2020 season, instead of 2019 as originally hoped. However, the promise of innovative technical solutions should make her worth the wait.

Looking ahead, a continuing flow of new concepts can be expected as the surging demand for smart, environmentally friendly ferries drives innovation among future-focused shipyards. At the Nor Shipping trade fair in Oslo in June, for example, UK company Cammell Laird announced plans for a specially designed ro-pax ferry to disrupt the newbuild ferry market, which the company says is still underserved.

“The ferry industry is crying out for innovation and green-friendly solutions,” said Andy Askham, Cammell Laird project director. “Our new ro-pax design will be in the segment of the market where there’ll be a lot of demand for the next decade. From our discussions with various owners we have seen real interest in our design that thrusts environmental innovation, fuel efficiency and comfort to the forefront of the future ferry market.”

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Jacqui Griffiths
By Jacqui Griffiths
27 September 2019

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