The pace for ordering natural gas fuelled ferries is increasing.
The latest is a first from the prolific ferry builders at Flensburg (FSG) which is also their first for an Australian operator, ‘Searoad’ for their Bass Strait service, Melbourne – Devonport (Tasmania). Due for delivery in late 2016 at 181-meters with 1,960 lane metres of vehicles and a design speed of 20.5 knots, the new ship seems to be mainly for freight but looks like she will have some passenger accommodation (accompanied trailers?) while also carrying containers, reefer units, cattle and hazardous cargo.
She will have a novel bunkering system for the natural gas fuel, using mobile tanks which will be exchanged upon arrival in port and secured on board as part of the fixed fuel supply system for the main engines.
Searoad are an innovative Melbourne based company with two diverse and apparently separate shipping arms. The new vessel will replace the smaller of their two hard working ro-ro freighters on the Bass Strait run, Searoad Mersey 7,928,’91 from the Keppel yard in Singapore. She was lengthened during her career which seems to have been wholly spent on this service. A fixture too on this route is the Searoad Tamar 13,965,’91 built by Carrington at Newcastle NSW. She will be retained though there is talk of a new second ship to replace her in due course.
Searoad seem to know exactly what they are doing and their vessels are chosen well and are long lived, as shown by their other arm, the passenger ro-ro service across the mouth of Port Phillip Bay. A 5.6 nautical mile, 40 minute link that saves a 220 drive around the Bay via Melbourne. They have worked this route since the late ‘80s with twin hulled vessels commencing with the new Peninsula Princess built Newcastle NSW with a 35 car capacity. But her success meant she was too small and she was replaced in ’93 from builders at Port Lincoln, S Australia, by Queenscliff with a 700 passenger and 80 car or equivalent capacity of coaches and trucks. High speed is not required, she makes 11 knots, and a similar sister was later ordered, Sorrento 3,200,’01 delivered by SMS - Southern Marine Shiplift of Launceston, Tasmania. These two vessels work in tandem linking across the entrance to Port Phillip 24 times a day.