New chapter in Quebec’s maritime strategy
Dual-fuel electric shuttle ferries are set to transform the busy Saguenay River crossing in eastern Canada, writes David Tinsley.
Claiming the title of the first LNG-fuelled ferry to have been built in North America, the 92m double-ender Armand-Imbeau II has been delivered for service on a vital river crossing in Quebec province. Arranged for 432 passengers and various ro-ro permutations up to a maximum of 115 cars or 16 trucks, she is set to be followed by newbuild sister Jos-Deschenes II during the autumn.
Built at Chantier Davie’s yard at Levis, on the south bank of the St Lawrence facing Quebec City, the ice-classed pair will supersede the existing, smaller mainstays of the Tadoussac/Baie-Sainte-Catherine route across the mouth of the Saguenay River at its confluence with the St Lawrence. The link effectively forms part of Highway 138, and the 10-minute crossing obviates the need for a 250km road journey around the fjord-like Saguenay.
Canadian operator Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ), owned by the provincial government of Quebec, engaged the local consultancy firm Concept Naval to develop the technical project. Besides the LNG/diesel-electric powering arrangements, distinctive characteristics of STQ’s new fleet additions include hull optimisation to improve sailing efficiency in thick ice, rapid turnaround performance, and complete engine and systems redundancy.
Installed with LNG dual-fuel machinery from the Wärtsilä medium-speed portfolio, and employing electric motors and azimuthing propulsion units, the new pair has been constructed to demanding criteria for dependable and environmentally-sensitive year-round operation on an intensively-utilised, infrastructurally-important service in ice-prone waters. The challenges to manoeuvrability and performance in the specific operating area include ice up to 1m-thick, wind strengths of 30-60 knots, and a current of up to seven knots.
The decision to run on cleaner-burning LNG is in line with Quebec’s Maritime Strategy, which seeks to protect the integrity of the province’s rivers and marine ecosystem. STQ is no stranger to the technology, having commissioned a Fincantieri-built, Wärtsilä-equipped 130m ferry into lower St Lawrence service in 2015.
Both ferries have been built to Lloyd’s Register class requirements. The society also assisted STQ in matters relating to risk assessment, risk management, regulatory procedures, and staff training with regard to the dual-fuel arrangements. This support was provided in collaboration with Transport Canada, the federal authority for transportation with responsibility for making regulatory framework decisions.
The four gensets are powered by Wärtsilä 20DF-series engines, two located just forward and just aft of midships, respectively, and providing electrical energy for the Z-drive system at each end of the hull. The scope of Wärtsilä’s supply for each ferry included the LNGPac fuel storage, control and supply installation, electrical power and automation systems, proprietary Control & Communication Centre, navigation system and integrated bridge control.
By operating on LNG as the main fuel, it is expected that NOx will be cut by 90% compared with a diesel plant, and that sulphur and fine particle emissions will be virtually eliminated. The adoption of electric drives also means less noise pollution.
Armand-Imbeau II is highly automated for operation by a smaller crew, and has fully automated safety shutdown systems for the gas installation. As a key indicator of the vessel’s technical complexity, there are over 6,800 input/output (I/O) devices or interfaces in the main automation system. The shipbuilder points out that this exceeds the number typically used in a drill rig or many naval vessels.
STQ maintains 13 services throughout the St Lawrence region, from Montreal to eastern Quebec province, including the Basse-Cote-Nord (North Shore) and Iles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands). Annual traffic volume is about 5m passengers and just over 2m vehicles.
The 1.6km Tadoussac/Baie-Sainte-Catherine route is the most heavily-trafficked crossing in the STQ network, accounting for some 30% of the company’s overall passenger carryings and 40% of total vehicles.
It is a round-the-clock operation, with departure intervals of just 20 minutes for much of the schedule. As well as serving as a commuter run for an estimated 60% of the region’s forestry and mining industry employees and forming a crucial link for transport on the 138 Highway, the route plays an important tourism role for visitors to the rugged North Shore and Saguenay-St Lawrence Marine Park.
Chantier Davie, or Davie Shipbuilding, is Canada’s largest shipyard and is controlled today by the Monte Carlo-headquartered Inocea Group. The pioneering STQ double-ender has put down a new marker for Canadian shipbuilding. It is clear that co-operation from the provincial government and the latter’s commitment to industrial production and ‘green’ marine technologies has played a signal role in realising the newbuild scheme.
Inocea’s chief executive officer Alex Vicefield said “The combination of an entirely new, green technology and a client who hadn’t built new ships in decades created a unique challenge for this project. Having integrated LNG propulsion into this ice-class ferry, we will now be looking at how LNG can power other classes of icebreakers—ships which operate in some of the most sensitive ecosystems on the planet.”
“For ferries, we also want to explore the potential for installing fully electrical propulsion systems. In Quebec, where we have a surplus of hydro-electric power, and with recent advances in ‘wireless’ or induction charging and battery technology, this would make a lot of sense. Being the first mover in any new technology is never going to be cheap, but the potential that these new, environmentally-friendly technologies have is enormous,” he added.
PRINCIPAL PARTICULARS—ARMAND-IMBEAU II
2 x Z-drive, electric
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