High speed craft operators
are finding opportunities
The 96 m wavepiercer Bonanza Express from Incat Tasmania is the latest generation of high speed RO/PAX vessels
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.
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.
NEXT STOP: NORTH AMERICA
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.
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:
SEACOASTER FOR LAKE ERIE
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