Tuesday, August 7, 2012

West Coast Ferry Projects

By Kathy Smith

Newbuild ferry activities are increasing in the State of Washington and Alaska, and state-of-the-art technologies and materials are definitely playing key roles.

At the end of June, the Rich Passage 1, a 118-passenger ferry began service between Bremerton and Seattle. Built by Bellingham, Washington’s All American Marine, Inc. (AAM) and owned by Kitsap Transit, the hydrofoil-assisted vessel was built for low-wake research purposes; its main objective to create an ultra-low wake energy hull design that can be used for high-speed passenger transport on wake-sensitive routes.

“Low-wake technology really hasn’t existed for high-speed ferry service in Washington State,” says Joe Hudspeth, AAM Business Development Manager and Associate Co-Chair for the Western region of the Passenger Vessel Association. “This new vessel is going through a series of test phases to prove that you can have high-speed passenger ferry service that will not erode the beaches.”
Based on a design by New Zealand’s Teknicraft Design Ltd., the ferry has a unique hull with a symmetrical bow that transitions to an asymmetrical tunnel, and the hull shape is good for passenger comfort and seakeeping as evidenced by the fact that AAM’s clients complain that they no longer sell seasickness products.

In order to decrease vessel weight and make it ride more smoothly through the water, the hull was built in aluminum. It features a composite superstructure as well as a composite carbon fiber hydrofoil. The Naiad control systems for the adjustable composite hydrofoil and wake mitigating interceptors have been integrated with GPS technology for the lowest wake signatures, and the system will also make adjustments for optimizing performance and fuel efficiency when wake mitigation is not the critical operation. Four Caterpillar C18 ACERT engines fit with CleanAIR Permit filters help reduce up to 99 percent of harmful emissions.

“We are really excited about having the partnerships in place to have designed this ultra low-wake vessel because we see such a marketable opportunity to take it not only to other parts of the country but into other foreign markets as well,” says Hudspeth.

Seattle-based Kvichak Marine Industries, a recognized worldwide leader in the design and construction of high-quality, hardworking aluminum vessels, is currently building a 65-foot, 150-passenger catamaran for the Chemehuevi Transit Authority of Lake Havasu, California. The ferry, scheduled for delivery this October, will provide scheduled passenger service between Lake Havasu City, Arizona and Lake Havasu Landing, California.

The vessel has recently completed the metal fabrication stage, an in-house design featuring single-chine hulls with a Z-bow configuration to minimize draft and provide a maximized waterline length for overall propulsion efficiency. It will be powered by twin MTU series 60 diesel engines, rated for 600 HP at 2,100 RPM and fitted to ZF 550 marine gears. A conventional propeller drive will provide an efficient service speed of 20+ knots.

The design was developed to provide a smooth and stable ride when encountering the short wind chop that can be common on Lake Havasu, and a modular configuration allows over-the-road transportation and simple reassembly on site.

Sales Manager Art Parker reports that while the demand for passenger vessels and ferries tends to be cyclical, Kvichak has seen a trend toward more fuel-efficient craft and an increased interest in green materials and designs. “For example, something as simple as larger, quieter exhaust mufflers can reduce the sound levels both on board and in the surrounding area,” he says. “Additionally we see an increased focus on lifecycle costs and how they can be reduced through high-quality builds with emphasis on ease of access and maintenance.”

Washington State Ferries are in the process of building 144-car Olympic Class ferries, and have contracted with Vigor Industrial’s US Fab Division for design and construction. Construction of the first ferry began earlier this year and delivery is expected in 2014, when the M/V Evergreen State turns 60 years old, and a second new ferry will begin construction later this year, with a planned delivery during early 2015.

Bryan Nichols, Sales Representative for Vigor Seattle says the ferries have been designed using Ship Constructor software, and Vigor is partnering with Washington State companies Nichols Bros. Boat Builders and Jesse Engineering to build the ships, with the Everett Shipyard doing the final outfitting and sea trials. “We’ve got a group that makes sure we get this vessel together in a timely fashion and on budget for the State,” he says.

The new ferries are being redesigned for better fuel efficiency and to meet all current regulations and future needs, along with having up-to-date ADA (disability) access. “The hull design was done by Seattle’s Guido Perla and Associates, who ensured it’s optimized for stability and fuel efficiency,” adds Nichols. “All the systems on board are updated to meet current regulations and future needs of the passengers. The accommodations have all been first class and Washington State Ferries has always done a good job of keeping their accommodations to a high standard, so this will be no different.”

Powering the vessel will be two EMD 12-710 EPA Tier 3 diesel engines which will drive two Rolls-Royce controllable pitch propellers via a reduction gear. Each end of the vessel has one propeller, gearbox, and engine. Each gearbox is connected to a high-speed shaft to allow for operational flexibility as well as optimum loading of the engines during transit.

“We are excited for other opportunities that exist in the maritime industry for similar types of vessels in our area,” says Nichols. He sees opportunities to build more ferries for Washington State Ferries as well as BC Ferries and the Alaska Marine Highway System. “We’re excited that we’re able to increase our production and now start to market this type of product.”

Nichols Bros. Boat Builders’ part in the first 144-car ferry is building a 273-foot section. “It’s about 85 feet wide and about five stories high,” says Matt Nichols. “It’s 40 percent completed now and when ready early next year, will be moved onto a barge to be brought down to Vigor. The same dollies we roll it onto the barge with, we will keep on the barge, lash everything down and then roll it onto the hull that is being built right now.”

Last year, the company also helped Vigor finish three, 64-car ferries for Washington State Ferries. “We were working with Todd Shipyard; they hadn’t been bought by Vigor at that point,” he says. “We built the superstructures for those.”

In addition to the ferry work, Nichols says he’s been keeping an eye on several of their clients’ catamarans. For example, the company built four Catalina ferries that have been working very well. “We built two that have the four-engine configuration,” says Nichols. “The more engines, the more power you put to them, the more fuel you are going to burn, too. We have found that by playing with them a little, instead of burning 500 gallons an hour, you can get it down to 300 gallons and only be about 10 minutes off the schedule in a 26-mile trip to Catalina. However, with the four engines, you also have reliability. You can lose an engine, a gear box, a water jet and still have 90 percent MCR.”

In fact, Nichols says that when running the four engine catamarans, operators are increasing fuel efficiency by backing the horsepower off on one side going to the Island, and doing the reverse on the way back, which saves 200 gallons an hour. “I think you are going to see more of the four engine type catamarans in the future.”

Alaska Ship & Drydock (ASD), a subsidiary of Vigor Industrial, is working with the State of Alaska as a consultant to the Alaska Marine Highway System on the design phase for the Alaska Class Ferry Project.

The new ferries will eventually replace the aging fleet of vessels, some built in the 1960s, and will be state-of-the-art passenger ships that will be environmentally-responsible and versatile, with new technologies and incorporate information gathered from past ferry builds and operations.

Currently just one new ferry is the focus and the design/build phase, and is being carried out under the Construction Manager General Contractor (CMCG) process that normally applies to the vertical construction industry. ASD’s Doug Ward, Director of Development, says for complex projects the CMCG has an established track record of staying closer to schedule and closer to budget than other forms of government procurement.

“This is definitely a new process for the Alaska Marine Highway System,” says Jeremy Woodrow, Assistant Chief Communications Officer, Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. “The State and Alaska Ship & Drydock are taking the cautious approach, making sure we do everything correctly. The ferries will serve as day boats in inland waters, and unlike our fast ferries, this first one will be a monohull design.”

With the CMCG process, ASD will be allowed the first option to bid on construction of the first ferry. “One of the things the lawmakers in Alaska have said is important is that this will be an Alaska ferry designed and built in Alaska for Alaskans,” adds Woodrow, “so allowing Alaska Ship & Drydock that first option will help reach that goal.” The preliminary design completion date has been set for July 2013.