Island ferry gains more accommodation

‘Red Falcon’s’ new observation lounge immediately below the wheelhouse ‘Red Falcon’s’ new observation lounge immediately below the wheelhouse

UK consultant Burness Corlett Three Quays (BCTQ) was responsible for design and technical management of a recent major refurbishment project on a small ferry, which the company had designed originally over 20 years ago.

Red Falcon is one of three 94m Raptor class ro-pax vessels operated by Red Funnel on a 9.9 nautical mile route between the mainland port of Southampton and Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

According to BCTQ, the major refurbishment project, valued at £2.2 million, marks the next generation for what has proved a most versatile ferry design for a popular route. Naval architect and marine engineering firm Burness Corlett & Partners, as BCTQ was known before its merger with Three Quays Marine Services, carried out the original design work for Red Falcon and sister ships Red Osprey and Red Eagle. The trio was built in the early 1990s at Fergusons Shipbuilders, Glasgow, and powered by medium-speed diesel engines with Voith Schneider propulsion. BCTQ was subsequently asked to work up the design and provide technical management for a ‘second generation’ conversion and lengthening process which took place between 2003 and 2005 at Remontawa in Gdansk, Poland. This work included adding a new mid-section to lengthen the vessels from 84m to 94m and adding an extra car deck.

Following a steady increase in passenger numbers on the Southampton to Cowes route, in common with the rest of the UK ferry sector, Red Funnel decided to look into a ‘third generation’ upgrade. At the same time, customer feedback confirmed that a modernisation programme to provide increased comfort levels would be justified, despite the relatively short 55-minute crossing time. The company’s plans included improved interior accommodation with new catering and entertainment facilities, a wider choice of seating options, pet-friendly areas, and wi-fi connectivity.

Red Funnel appointed a local principal project team including BCTQ, SMC Design and Trimline, with a large proportion of the team and sub-contractors being Southampton based. The eight-week work programme was carried out with Red Falcon’ afloat in Southampton’s Eastern Docks. The schedule was maintained despite very wet weather conditions.

Before the project could begin, BCTQ says it had to check that the proposed modifications were feasible and would meet both the expectations of Red Funnel and the MCA safety requirements. Next BCTQ set to work optimising the vessel’s deck arrangements to achieve the spatial accommodation to fit SMC’s interior design scheme. The primary objective was to increase passenger seating, with cafés and bar facilities by constructing two new observation lounges on top of the existing Deck B passenger accommodation.

An important feature was to create 180° panoramic views from the new lounge spaces and BCTQ achieved this by designing a steel deckhouse structure incorporating large, flush-mounted windows. Because of the additional weight aloft, stability was carefully monitored to maximise the vessel’s deadweight carrying capacity.

The refurbished vessel offers two fully enclosed observation style North and South lounges, free of bulkheads and partitions, designed for optimum views. The South lounge is equipped with moveable furniture, offering flexibility for use as either a ‘board room’ style meeting room or an entertainment space.

To help minimise the time that ‘Red Falcon’ was taken out of service, each of the two lounges was prepared and built in steel sections before the ship docked.  The steel work was carried out by Burgess Marine, appointed as a sub-contractor by interior design company Trimline, which maintained overall responsibility.

Formed on shore, the new steelwork was lifted on to the ship in ‘flat-pack’ sections where they were welded, insulated and glazed using energy efficient windows supplied by Seaglaze. Trimline’s team of electrical engineers, interior joiners and installers carried out the work of running cables, installing pipes and laying flooring.

Senior designer for SMC Design, Andrew Brown, said: “The design language was led by understanding the brand personality of Red Funnel and from that we were able to create a series of versatile, comfortable and contemporary spaces offering an evolution to the Red Funnel experience. Our challenge was to push boundaries, not just in ferry food and beverage, but also cater to a much broader passenger base, be it early morning breakfast or a lone business traveller wanting a quick snack, through to families and large groups in search of something more.”

At the same time that work was progressing on the two new observation lounges, Deck B was completely stripped back to its bare shell, the work again being overseen by Trimline.

Improvements included the installation of LED lighting and fitting of TV screens throughout the ship, and with air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and charging points for laptops in the seating areas. The new internal seating layout features a mix of airline-style seats with tray backs, with dining tables and seat combinations for different size groups. There is a new galley and counter area designed to reduce waiting times, a relocation of the drink stations and a new bar surrounded by lounge-style seating.

Lift access was extended up to the new observation lounges, with access to an external promenade walkway with bench seating. Finally, above each lounge, new sun deck viewing points with seating areas have been provided.

Red Funnel says that the work has resulted in a 55% increase in seating capacity as well as a completely transformed and modernised passenger environment.

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