Rising star over Gulf of Finland

Megastar: more capital-intensive tonnage from Meyer Turku (photo: Tallink)
Megastar: more capital-intensive tonnage from Meyer Turku (photo: Tallink)
'Megastar' setting out on sea trials from Turku
'Megastar' setting out on sea trials from Turku

Cruise and ferry operator Tallink is raising its game in the Baltic market with the introduction of a 27-knot ro-pax crafted to raise both revenue generating productivity and environmental standard. David Tinsley reports.

Estonian investment and influence in the Baltic ferry business is assuming new dimension with the impending introduction of an LNG-fuelled, exceptionally fast ro-pax vessel. The Tallink Group’s 49,000gt Megastar has been custom-designed for the intensively-utilised Tallinn/Helsinki route across the Gulf of Finland, and provides a new showcase for the Finnish shipbuilding industry. Following shakedown, the ferry entered service on 29 January under the Tallink Shuttle brand, offering capacity for over 2,800 passengers and the capability to make year-round transits at speeds up to 27 knots.

The LNG dual-fuel electric power and propulsion plant combines operating flexibility, efficiency and redundancy with the means of ensuring compliance with the exacting edicts governing ships trading in the Emission Control Area (ECA)-designated Baltic region. Reliability has been a fundamental consideration given Tallink’s very tight scheduling and high transit speeds and the intensity of competition on the corridor linking the Finnish and Estonian capitals.

Megastar is a product of German-owned Meyer Turku, Finland’s largest shipyard. The €230m (US$242m) capital cost carries a substantial premium relative to a ferry of more conventional design and powering .    
Tallink received EUR 4.8 million (USD5.1m) in funding from the EU towards construction through the company’s participation in a joint project, with the ports of Tallinn and Helsinki, aimed at strengthening Finland/Estonia connections by the use of more energy-efficient, environmentally-compatible solutions in ferry transport.

Although the new ship’s passenger capacity is on a par with that of the company’s preceding newbuild and largest cruise ferry, Baltic Queen, it is about one-third greater than the Shuttle-brand ferries hitherto deployed on the Tallinn/Helsinki run. With the help of two-tier vehicle loading and unloading, the plan is to keep turnaround time to the existing one-hour schedule.


While selecting technical solutions best suited to its long-term strategic and economic requirements, the owning group has paid close attention to its customer base, drawing on feedback from 41m passenger carryings on the Tallinn/Helsinki line over the past 10 years to help shape the interiors and facilities aboard Megastar. The ferry has been tailored to the route, with record provision having  been made for onboard shopping facilities, to maximise commercial opportunities and the revenue stream from Finnish passengers buying products at cheaper Estonian prices.  

The Bureau Veritas-classed ferry’s potent, dual-fuel electric installation features ABB propulsion motors and generators driven by five Wärtsilä dual-fuel, medium-speed engines.

ABB has had a pivotal engineering role in the project, delivering the complete power plant and propulsion outfit, including synchronous propulsion motors and ACS600SD drives, medium-voltage generators, the main switchboard, propulsion transformers, and thruster motors. The group also provided engineering, project management and commissioning services, including remote diagnostics and comprehensive training for the crew.

ABB’s EMMA energy and performance monitoring system will support the crew in managing energy-related processes, practices and decision-making. The EMMA advisory suite also includes a trim optimisation decision support tool.

The prime movers for the five main generators are three 12-cylinder models of the Wärtsilä 50DF engine and two six-cylinder versions, making for an aggregate output of 45,600kW on the basis of the nominal maximum continuous engine ratings. The corresponding, overall generator output is 44,000kW.

The engines can be run on natural gas, light fuel oil (LFO) or heavy fuel oil (HFO), without any difference in delivered power, and will automatically switch to fuel oil back-up in the event of any interruption in LNG supply while in operation. Both the gas admission and pilot oil fuel injection are electronically-controlled.


The multi-genset configuration and electric drives will enable the operator to closely match the number of engines in service at any one time to the ship’s fluctuating power requirements, in accordance with scheduling needs, voyage profile, weather and ice conditions, and ‘hotel’ electrical load. Selected engines can then be used at their nominal power, where the efficiency is highest.  

When operating in gas mode, the ferry will meet the Baltic Sea Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) cap without additional measures, as sulphur oxide (SOx) and particle emissions will be negligible. In addition, Wärtsilä claims that the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced will be around 25% less than that from conventional diesel machinery, while nitrogen oxide (NOx) will be cut by 85% relative to the IMO Tier II level.

The LNG fuel gas system consists of two designated bunkering stations, vacuum-insulated, double-walled bunkering lines, two Type C storage tanks, and the gas distribution system for the main engines and steam boilers. The two horizontal, vacuum-insulated 300m3 tanks plus gas handling and control arrangements were delivered by the Linde Group from its Swedish engineering subsidiary Cryo. Unlike other LNG-powered ferries where the fuel storage is on the upper deck, Megastar’s two stainless steel LNG tanks are positioned at tank top level, immediately below the main vehicle deck, in the midships section.  

All pipework for LNG and gas has been made from acid-proof stainless steel so as to better ensure  long-term protection from corrosion and leaks. Electrical equipment in close proximity to the LNG and gas units has been certified as explosion-free, and the vessel is fitted with a considerable number of gas detectors.

Due to Tallink’s proactive approach, Megastar ranks among the first vessels certified under the new Code of Safety for Ships using gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels, better known as the IGF Code, which entered force at the outset of January 2017. The Code contains mandatory provisions governing the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, focusing initially on LNG.

Fuel supplier Skangas will bunker the ferry with LNG, using road tankers, while the ship is berthed in Helsinki. BV affiliate Tecnitas carried out risk assessment for the bunkering operations as well as hazard identification (HAZID) studies for the LNG propulsion and onboard storage systems.

Megastar: more capital-intensive tonnage from Meyer Turku (photo: Tallink) 


Some 35 different hull forms were investigated by Meyer Turku’s naval architects before arriving at the final, optimised design, faired to give low resistance, reduced wave-making, and good seakeeping performance. The nature of the underwater hull lines is a vital complement to the ship’s high power concentration in conferring a service speed of 27 knots. The need to ensure unfettered, year-round  operation in the eastern Baltic’s Gulf of Finland called for an Ice Class 1A standard of build, including a reinforced bow and ‘ice belt’ around the waterline.

The fixed-pitch propellers and shaft lines were sourced from Wärtsilä. To meet demanding manoeuvrability criteria, the twin-screw ferry has two rudders of the Becker twisted leading edge design, with bulbs.

Megastar is of drive-through configuration, with both bow and stern ro-ro access, and is loaded and unloaded via two decks simultaneously, using new terminal facilities at Helsinki’s Vestre Hamnen (West Harbour) and Tallinn. Cars come aboard via the upper ramp, separate from the flow of trucks and buses entering at main deck level.

The ship’s vehicular intake corresponds to 1,970 lane-metres for road freight and 900 lane-metres for cars, augmented by a dedicated garage for 150 cars. The special feature of the latter is the direct access afforded passengers to their cars during the voyage, and to the adjacent Traveller Superstore. These arrangements, backed up by the requisite safety measures, provide passengers with the convenience of transferring purchases directly to their cars.     

The entire outfit of MacGregor-brand cargo access equipment was supplied by Cargotec, including bow door, bow and stern ramps/doors, hoistable and movable internal ramps and associated hydraulic power packs, and the turnkey contract encompassed all design work plus hardware and system installation at the shipyard.


Construction of the Megastar followed Safe Return to Port (SRTP) principles. The concept is one of imbuing a vessel with the ability to return to port by its own power after suffering a fire, flood or fault, while still affording passengers a certain level of habitability, comfort and sustanence, reducing the likelihood or need for evacuation.

The ship’s main machinery is distributed between two separate, watertight compartments, with the aim of ensuring that, in the event of one engine room suffering damage or failure, the other would  remain operational. The same concept is applied to critical control and safety systems, with the objective of the vessel maintaining basic functionality even if severely damaged. Due to the relatively short distance between the ports served in conjunction with the redundancy levels, the ferry has been authorised to operate with marine evacuation systems (MES) rather than lifeboats.

The vessel has been arranged with 47 cabins for passengers and commercial drivers, complementing the 105 for crew, and all laid out on deck 10. The restaurants and bars are located mainly on decks 8 and 9, with the 2,800m2 Traveller Superstore shopping area on decks 7 and 8. The many fields of Finnish specialisation in shipboard technology represented in the Megastar are exemplified by the adoption of Evac’s Complete Cleantech Solution, encompassing the vacuum toilets, membrane bioreactor (MBR) wastewater treatment system, waste collection, incinerator and sterilisation, and fresh water generation.   

Megastar is the latest expression of the sustained investment by Tallink in high-capacity, quality tonnage that has underpinned the company’s rapid emergence as a leading force in the Baltic ferry transport and mini-cruise sectors. Passenger volumes have increased from 160,000 in 1990 to almost 9m in 2015. Starting with the Tallinn/Helsinki run, the eastern and northern Baltic route network has grown to six lines, served by a fleet of 15 ferries.

During the period 2002-2009, six vessels were commissioned by the Estonian carrier, with all construction having been undertaken in Finland, at the Helsinki and Rauma yards. The programme included three 2,800 passenger-capacity cruise ferries, Galaxy, Baltic Princess and Baltic Queen, and the 27-knot ‘Shuttle’ ferry Star, laid out for 1,900 passengers.    


Length overall






Gross tonnage


Passenger capacity


Vehicle capacity

1,900 lane-m for trailers, 900 lane-m for cars + garage for 150 cars

Propulsion system

Dual-fuel electric

Main generator engines

3 x 11,400kW + 2 x 5,700kW

Total output, engines/generators



27 knots


Bureau Veritas



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