Speedy delivery

High speed craft operators are finding opportunities
in the cargo market, writes senior editor JOHN SNYDER

The 96 m wavepiercer Bonanza Express from Incat Tasmania is the latest generation of high speed RO/PAX vessels

What do fresh flowers, fresh fruit, tourists, and fast ferries have in common? Well, if you mix them all together you get the recipe for high speed ocean freight, (HSOF). Back in 1997, a Booz, Allen and Hamilton report commissioned by the Australian Government identified high speed ocean freight transportation as a market niche that could be exploited by Australia's well-proven aluminum fast passenger/car ferry technology.

The study said some 90 million tons, or 8% of the world's traded commodities, are potentially "switchable" from air or sea freight and identified a number of priority routes that represent business opportunities for Australian industry to pursue.

The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) believes Australia's aluminum fast ferry technology can provide a high speed vessel that can reliably operate and compete effectively with air freight for distances up to 500 nautical miles at 40 plus knots.

A good example of this is the Roll-On/Roll-Off-passenger 96 m x 26 m wavepiercer Bonanza Express recently dedicated for Canary Islands service by Spanish ferry operator Lineas Fred. Olsen SA. The vessel, built in Tasmania by Incat Australia , will link the ports of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Agate, cutting the current passage time on the 35 nautical mile route from 2 hours and 15 minutes to 1 hour.

The Canaries, about 97 km off the northwest coast of Africa, attract some 10 million tourists annually. Fred. Olsen currently serves the seven islands of the Canary Island archipelago with a fleet of four conventional ferries carrying passengers and cargo on five routes.

What attracted Fred. Olsen to Incat 's 96 m wavepiercer is its operational flexibility and exceptional payload. It carries large volumes of passengers and cars, as well as heavy freight vehicles. The 37-knot Bonanza Express can carry 755 passengers and crew and has multiple vehicle deck configurations. For example, it can carry 240 cars with no heavy freight trailers, 180 cars with 24 road trailers, or 24 trailers with 85 cars. The key to all this is the vessel's deadweight capacity of 800 tons and movable mezzanine vehicle decks that allow the ship to offer the necessary lane meters required for maximum car loading as well as offering the headroom demanded by oversize freight vehicles.

Incat says that with Bonanza Express it has "reinforced its intention of maintaining a dominant presence in [the fast freight] segment of the fast ferry market. Like DevilCat, the vehicle deck on BONANZA EXPRESS offers the operator total market and seasonal versatility. Vehicle access is via a shore-based stern ramp or ramps,
the transom arrangements being designed to allow ramps providing a minimum of four lanes.

The vehicle decks are notable for being open both forward and aft in a similar manner to the two K50 catamarans Juan Patricio and Sunflower built by Incat in 1994/95. In total they offer 330 lane meters at 2.7 meters wide and 4.3 meters clear height suitable for heavy, high and wide vehicles and 370 car lane meters at 2.3 meters wide. This gives BONANZA EXPRESS the flexibility to carry 240 cars and no
heavy vehicles, or 12 road freight trailers with 180 cars, or 24 road trailers with 85 cars. While the maximum deadweight capacity of 800 tonnes is one key to achieving these freight loads, it is the provision of movable mezzanine vehicle decks that allows the ship to offer the necessary lane meters required for maximum car loading as well as offering the headroom demanded by oversize freight vehicles.

The wide center lane of the main vehicle deck has been configured with a three-quarter length mezzanine vehicle deck, the aft end of which
forms a ramp down to the main deck. In a freight dominated market the crew can hydraulically lift the mezzanine ramp and deck sections up
to the deckhead, giving clearance beneath for extra-high freight vehicles. In a car only or combination car and light freight service the
mezzanine would be left in the lowered position. The mezzanine deck has locking devices to secure it to the deckhead when stowed in the
elevated position, thus relieving the lifting system of static and dynamic loads experienced by the decks when stowed.

Vehicle securing points are installed at regular intervals with 300 vehicle lashings provided, together with multiple hanging positions. Clear
lane and turning markings are painted on the decks and there is also a programmable LED traffic direction display system to help ensure
fast vehicle loading and unloading. The end result is a vessel offering remarkable flexibility to meet changing demands for car and freight
capacity, something owners are increasingly demanding. The concept thus permits the ship to be configured for maximum car loadings
(mezzanine down) during the peak tourist season whilst in the off season the decks can be raised to offer maximum freight loading ability.
The ease with which the mezzanine decks can be raised and lowered on BONANZA EXPRESS means that this flexibility is available on a
voyage-to-voyage basis.

The Bonanza Express is a near sister to the Devil Cat, a Distinctive Passenger Vessel of 1998 and featured on the cover of the January 1998 issue of Marine Log.

Other Australian shipbuilders are marketing freight vessels based on their fast ferry technology. Austal Ships, for one, has designed a 95 m vessel capable of carrying 1,000 tons of freight 665 nautical miles at 42 knots using gas turbines.

The Ship Industry Review Panel, formed by the Australian Ministry of Industry, Science, and Tourism, says several routes in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Asia are well suited for fast ocean freight. Among the requirements for potential routes are: high volumes of bilateral trade, high volumes of time sensitive and high value commodities and strong growth of air cargo relative to container traffic.

There are stumbling blocks. Landside logistics and handling rates need to be improved "so that operators can be assured that the overall economics show an overall improvement on air freight. There is no point in increasing speed over one part of the journey if the land freight and cargo handling facilities cannot meet the demands of the new service."

The panel also cautioned that "the performance of these vessels in the open ocean needs to be assessed. The ferries from which they are derived operate mainly in relatively sheltered waters, whereas fast freight vessels would often need to operate in the open ocean. There is a need for research to assess the extent to which this could compromise operability or speed in certain sea conditions."

The recent performances by the Devil Cat and the newly launched Bonanza Express, however, seem to put those concerns to rest.


Australians also see the possibilities for fast freight services in North America. Proof of that is the progress shown by the FastShip transatlantic high speed cargo project . But Australians are quick to point out that the Jones Act prevents them from building directly for the U.S. market. That's why some, like INCAT Designs and Advanced Multi-Hulls, have licensed their technology to U.S. builders. Others are actively pursuing such relationships.

One INCAT Designs licensee in the U.S. is Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, The Duclos Corporation, Somerset, Mass. According to Peter J. Duclos, president of Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, negotiations are continuing with owner Hydro-Link for a 72 m, 400 passenger/52 vehicle high speed ferry for Lake Michigan. Duclos told Marine Log that the project has been in development for two years. One of the financing options being looked at by Hydro-Link is Title XI ship financing loan guarantees. The Hydro-Link vessel would be the largest INCAT design built in the U.S.

"We have bids on three similar type vessels to Hydro-Link's," said Bryan O. Nichols, vice president, business development, Nichols Brother Boat Builders, Whidbey Island, Wash., another INCAT licensee. "There are some pretty major cat projects out there. It's only a matter of time before you see these [fast freight] vessels in the U.S."

Nichols recently delivered the 450-passenger Catalina Jet for California owner Catalina Cruises, and a 400-passenger tourboat for Alaskan owner Phillips Cruises. It's also building a 180 ft dinner boat for Argosy, Seattle.

Meanwhile, Gladding-Hearn recently delivered the Yankee Freedom II, a 250-passenger, 92 ft high speed ferry for Yankee Roamer, Inc., Gloucester, Mass., and the Voyager III, a 106 ft, high speed whale watch catamaran for New England Aquarium.

Australia's Advanced Multi-Hulls (AMD) has licensed its technology to Dakota Creek Industries, Inc., Anacortes, Wash., and Freeport Shipbuilding & Marine Repair, Inc., Freeport, Fla. Dakota Creek will deliver the second of two AMD, Lugger-powered, low wash, high speed ferries for Washington State Ferries this summer.

AMD's DESIGN PORTOLIO includes a number of high speed freight catamarans ranging from the 80 m AMD 1240 to 100 m AMD 2100
The AMD 1240 is a shallow draft, fast catamaran configured for high speeds whilst laden with cargo in unprotected waters.

The loading of containers is accomplished via the use of terminal tractors which manoeuvre the cargo over shorebased stern ramps into position on the main deck. A system of guide rails is located on the deck to assist loading and securing of cargo. The vessel has the capacity to carry twenty 48 ft trailers in five lanes; which when coupled with a fuel capacity for an 800 nautical mile range, equates to 367 tonnes of deadweight. Accommodation is provided for twelve passengers on the resiliently mounted wheelhouse deck. Facilities include passenger lounge, communications center and two staterooms supplied for VIP passengers. Crew accommodation is also located on this deck with the capacity for eight able seamen, 2 deck officers, the chief engineer and the captain.

A full load speed of 46 knots is achieved with four 7081 kW diesel engines. Length Overall: 80.0 m Propulsion: Waterjets
Beam Overall: 21.8 m
Draft (maximum) : 2.5 m Construction material : Marine Grade Aluminium Alloy
Cargo Capacity : 20 x 48' containers Fresh Water Capacity: 2 000 Litres
Deadweight (normal): 367 tonnes Fuel capacity: 130 000 Litres
Shaft Power : 4 x 7080 kW
Main Engines: Marine Diesel Speed (Full load): 46 Knots

AMD 2100
The AMD2100 is an advanced wave piercing catamaran vehicle ferry which offers the vehicle ferry operator a profitable alternative to the conventional passenger Ro-Ro ferry.
At just over 100 meters in length the AMD2100 has a larger capacity than any other high speed wave piercing catamaran. This capacity is further enhanced by the two wide vehicle decks, large turning areas and increased headroom aft which allows for the transportation of tourist buses and Ro-Ro freight vehicles. The two passenger decks offer spacious and comfortable travel for up to 1250 passengers in airline style seating with room for passenger facilities such as cafeterias and large duty free shops on each deck. Tier 3 has two tourist class passenger cabins with seating for 838 passengers. Tier 4 has two first class passenger cabins with seating for 412 passengers. Tier 1 & Tier 2 has space for 245 cars or the carriage of tourist buses and cars.

The standard propulsion package consists of 6 marine diesel engines coupled to waterjets which give the vessel a top speed of 42 knots loaded. Length Overall: 102.1 m Propulsion: Waterjets
Beam Overall: 27.4 m Generators: 2 x 400 kVA
Draft (maximum) : 3.0 m Construction material : Marine Grade Aluminium Alloy
Capacity : 1250 passengers 245 cars
Fresh Water Capacity: 10 000 Litres
Deadweight (normal): 450 tonnes Fuel capacity: 70 000 Litres
Shaft Power : 4 x 7 200 kW + 2 x 4060kW
Main Engines: Marine Diesel Speed (Full Load): 42 Knots
Speed (Light load): 48.5 Knots

European fast ferry designers, of course, are also positioning themselves in the North American market through licensing agreements. Pequot River Shipworks has delivered ferries to the designs of the U.K.'s FBM, while Derecktor Shipyards, Mamaroneck, N.Y., has built Nigel Gee & Associates designs. Swiftships, Morgan City, La., has struck a licensing deal with Italy's Rodriquez Cantari Navali to build a full range of Rodriquez fast ferries in the U.S., and the Halter Marine Group has formed a joint venture with Spain's Bazan.

Now, Vancouver Shipyards, North Vancouver, B.C., Canada, has inked a licensing deal with Kværner Fjellstrand to build high speed ferries. The deal was facilitated by the Vancouver and Annapolis, Md., offices of Kværner Masa Marine. The agreement covers three Kværner designs:

  • FlyingCat 50 (15 cars/300 passengers),
  • JumboCat 60 (60 cars/450 passengers), and
  • JumboCat 150 (150 cars/600 passengers).


On the "home-grown" design front, the new Surface Effect Ship (SES) catamaran ferry Island Rocket II will begin service this summer on Lake Erie for owner Island Express Boat Lines, Ltd., Sandusky, Ohio.

"We were looking for something with a little more speed and a little more passenger comfort," Island Express general manager Brad Castle told Marine Log, "and this certainly fit the bill."

At full load, Castle says the 149-passenger Island Rocket II should reach cruising speeds in the "mid-40 knot range" and still be comfortable for passengers. It will combine with Island Express Boat Lines' other ferry, the Island Rocket I, to offer regular service from Sandusky to Kelleys Island to Put-in-Bay.

Based on the Seacoaster design from inventor Don Burg, president of Air Ride Craft, Inc., Miami, the 72 ft Island Rocket II integrates the best features of an SES and a catamaran. Like other SESs, the Seacoaster rides on a pressurized air cushion created under the vessel, which carries some 75 to 90% of its weight, greatly reducing the wetted area hull friction. This means that an SES normally needs much less propulsive power--about half--of that required for similar size monohulls or catamarans at speeds of 25 knots and up. For operators, this translates into fuel and power savings, a smooth ride in rough seas, and better wake characteristics at high speeds.

While SES craft are nothing new, the Seacoaster design has attracted some interest among other operators. One of those is Dan Yates, owner of the Portland Spirit, as well as two other dinner boats in Portland, Ore. Yates has been exploring the possibility of creating a network of water taxis and fast ferries that would connect downtown Portland with Vancouver, Wash., via the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. The concept would involve possibly five ferries in the 100 passenger range.

"The designs are out there," says Yates, "but I don't want to be an innovator in technology. Rather, I want to use technology in an innovative way." But because of political and operational hurdles, he believes the effort could take two more years to come to fruition. "There's a strong light rail contingent," says Yates, "and there's also a lot of debris in the river. My dinner boats get their props banged every so often by 125 ft trees floating down the river," says Yates. ML

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