New Dover Strait ferry makes big impact

‘Spirit of Britain’, the largest ferry ever designed for the Dover Strait, undergoing sea trials ‘Spirit of Britain’, the largest ferry ever designed for the Dover Strait, undergoing sea trials

Last month the new ropax ferry ‘Spirit of Britain’ went into service on the P&O Ferries’ English Channel service and more than doubled the freight-carrying capacity of the vessel it replaced.

The 47,600gt car-passenger ferry Spirit of Britain was built by STX Europe’s Rauma shipyard and is the first of a pair of new ships coming into service for P&O Ferries on the Dover-Calais route this year, with sistership Spirit of France due for delivery in September.

The two newbuildings represent an investment of more than €360 million, the largest investments ever made by P&O Ferries, and are designed for a life span of 25 years.

Their design, which involved Finland’s naval architects Deltamarin as lead design consultant, incorporates a number of world firsts, particularly in terms of hull design and in being the first ferries to comply with IMO’s new ‘safe return to port regulations’.

Following close collaboration between P&O Ferries, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Lloyd’s Register, Deltamarin and STX Europe, the new ships were designed to comply with SOLAS 2009 and the enhanced standards of the Stockholm Agreement. In addition, they are the first passenger ferries in the world to comply with the new IMO Safe Return to Port requirements ahead of the international compliance date.

Both vessels have Lloyd’s Register’s highest notation for propulsion, steering and machinery redundancy. Other key partnerships included appointing London-based SMC as interior design specialist to develop passenger areas.

After visits to 11 shipyards worldwide, Aker Yards (now STX Europe) was selected. John Garner, fleet director, P&O Ferries, explained: “We specified their specialist ferry yard as we had a clear vision to build for the very specific requirements of the Dover-Calais route and the expertise at Rauma stood out.”

In June 2008 a letter of intent with the shipyard was signed, followed by contracts in August. Steel production began in March 2009 and the keel-laying ceremony for the first ship, designated hull 1367 by the shipyard, took place in August. Hull 1367 was floated out of its dry dock on 8 June, 2010 for final fitting out prior to sea trials at the end of November and entry into service in January 2011 as the Spirit of Britain.

As is increasingly common in modern shipbuilding, block construction methods have been used. Pre-fabricated hull sections fitted with many key components such as cabling and pipework are moved from their construction halls to be lifted into place in the dry dock where the ship is assembled. The scale of each block is in the region of 325 tonnes. As the construction halls are protected from the weather, progress has not been interrupted other than for painting, despite the winter of 2009/2010 being particularly severe in Finland.

Measuring 213m overall, 31.5m wide and a draught of 6.5m, the new ropax ferry has a passenger capacity of 1,750 and 3,746 lane metres for trailers, cars and other cargo providing space for approximately 180 freight trucks (2,800 lane metres) and 200 passenger cars. If all the vehicle space on the 8,700 dwt Spirit of Britain was given over to just cars, there would be room for more than 1,000.

The desire to build big reflects the economies of scale that comes with large ships. On fuel consumption alone, the new ships are be capable of carrying virtually twice the payload of the 26,000gt ferries they replace for the same amount of fuel used. One of the constraints on the design of any ferry is that the maximum dimensions are limited by the need to turn them around extremely quickly in a matter of minutes rather than hours, preferably without the assistance of tugs, as using tugs to berth ships slows down the docking procedure and is expensive. The Pride of Britain and her sistership are the first designed for operation in the English Channel that are able to manoeuvre under their own power in 50 knot winds (Port of Dover normally closes when wind speeds reach 55 knots.)

Spirit of Britain and Spirit of France have been specifically designed for service between Dover and Calais with a Lloyd’s Register ‘Green Passport’ notation which provides a cradle to grave strategy for all materials used. While it would have been satisfactory, and cheaper, to order ships that are principally ‘off-the-shelf’ designs, the extra expense of designing specifically for the intended route brings immediate benefits.

The hull form of the ships takes into account the particulars of the route, such as water depth, and has been arrived at after extensive model tank tests at MARIN in Holland. The result is a hull form with particularly efficient hydrodynamics. Other energy saving measures include boilers that use waste heat from exhaust gas to heat water and power the water purification plant.

Special consideration has been given to how to maintain fast turnaround times of such large ferries in port. For example, the 3.2m vehicle lanes are wider than the more traditional 2.8m which helps speed the flow of vehicles on and off the ship. MacGregor supplied the bow and stern doors and stores platform. What is also unique on this ship is the separate deck for tourist vehicles designed to give caravan and motorhome owners the opportunity to keep their units away from freight traffic such as lorries. 

For passengers, there is a family lounge forward with play zones for children along with a main food court. Midships there is a brasserie-style restaurant and shopping arcade while further aft is a large lounge bar leading to the rear deck.

The 12-deck high newbuilding is the biggest ferry operating on the English Channel and utilises the newest and the most advanced technology in the design and construction of the vessels with special attention being paid to environmentally friendly solutions and safety.

The main propulsion plant comprises four medium speed MAN 7L 48/60CR diesel mechanical engines each delivering 8,400kW at 514 rpm and driving two MAN Alpha FP propellers for a service speed of 22 knots. Main engines are common rail and designed to operate on low sulphur fuel oil to meet Tier 2 NOx emissions standards ahead of regulatory requirements. Auxiliary power is provided by means of four MAN 7 L21/31 Tier 2 gensets each with an output of 1,424 Gen. kW at 1,000 rpm, 415V/50Hz.

Manoeuvrability is enhanced by means of three Wärtsilä CT300M bow thrusters each with a power output of 3,000kW. The life saving/evacuation system is via six 100% dry shod RFD Marin Ark MES fully reversible life rafts with suspended floor, multi redundancy liferaft chambers and dual spiral chute.

The integrated bridge system was supplied by Northrop Grumman using their Sperry IAS L3 Val marine system.

Principal dimensions

Length o.a. 213m

Breadth (max.) 31.5m

Draught 6.5m

Gross tonnage 47,600 tons

Deadweight 8,700 tonnes

Passenger capacity 1,750

Lane metres 3,746m giving space for approximately 180 freight trucks (2,800 lane metres) and 200 passenger cars

Main engines 4 x MAN 7L48/60CR with an output of 8,400kW @ 514rpm

Auxiliary engines 4 x MAN 7L21/31 with an output of 1,424 Gen. kW @ 1,000 rpm

Service speed 22 knots

Propulsors 2 x Alpha CP propellers

Bow thrusters 3 x Wärtsilä CT300M 3,000kW


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