The next LNG dual-fuel fast ferry for River Plate service with Buquebus. (Image courtesy of Incat). The next LNG dual-fuel fast ferry for River Plate service with Buquebus. (Image courtesy of Incat).
Industry Database

South American operator Buquebus has endorsed a further advance in high-speed ferry technology by ordering what is claimed to be the world’s largest aluminium ship, writes David Tinsley.

The order for the 130m catamaran has been placed with Australian shipbuilder Incat, which delivered the LNG dual-fuel, gas turbine-equipped Francisco to the same company six years ago, pushing the frontiers in ferry powering.

The latest newbuild will serve the Buquebus route network across the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) between Argentina and Uruguay, providing capacity for 2,100 passengers and 220 cars. The propulsive power installation will comprise four dual-fuel engines, using LNG as the primary fuel, engendering a predicted, maximum speed of over 40 knots.

Industry sources have indicated a contract value of some A$188m (US$130m). Work has been implemented on design and engineering, and actual construction will commence at Incat’s Hobart yard in Tasmania as soon as the detail design drawings are completed and approved by the customer.

The ferry will have a breadth of 32m and the gross measurement is expected to be 13,000gt. The importance attached by Buquebus to onboard revenue generation is implicit in the specification of a duty-free shop with over 3,000m2 of retail floor space, akin to the size of a large airport duty-free area.

The 2013-built Francisco, deployed on the mainline route linking Buenos Aires and Montevideo, is smaller at 7,000gt on main dimensions of 99m x 27m, taking about 950 passengers and 135-150 cars, and is powered by two 22,200kW dual-fuel gas turbines.

She set a new record in the ro-ro ferry sector, achieving a lightship speed of 58 knots. Francisco was the first vessel built to the High Speed Craft (HSC) Code incorporating gas turbines using LNG as the primary fuel and marine distillate for ancillary and standby duty. At 85% power, the plant ensures a cruising speed of 51 knots in laden condition. The vessel enables the 106 nautical-mile Buenos Aires/Montevideo crossing to be made in a little over two hours, successfully attracting passengers from competing short-haul airlines.

Officially titled Los Cipreses, Buquebus was founded in 1980 with a single ship to provide ferry transport on the Plate. Its fast ferry fleet today conveys about 2.5m passengers and 200,000 cars per annum. The man behind the company was Buenos Aires clothing manufacturer Juan Carlos Lopez Mena, who remains at the helm.

Over the years, Buquebus and associated companies have clearly demonstrated receptivity to the Incat product, as the newbuild will be the ninth from the Hobart yard to have been contracted and operated by the group.

The evolution of its fleet included the introduction in 1995 of the 70m Incat catamaran Juan Patricio, distinguished by a service speed of 47 knots. This was followed in 1977 by the Bazan-built Luciano Federico L, powered by gas turbines, and ranked at the time as the fastest car-carrying cat, capable of making 55 knots.

With the latest project, Incat reported last week that it had confirmed contracts covering the next four years, including a number of catamaran ferries over 100m, “with high expectations of other large vessel orders”. The 600-strong workforce is to be expanded accordingly, giving a further boost to the Tasmanian economy.


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