Loch Seaforth updates FSG ro-pax design

‘Loch Seaforth’ is FSG’s first ro-pax for five years. ‘Loch Seaforth’ is FSG’s first ro-pax for five years.

Tom Todd reports on the first ro-pax to be delivered from German yard FSG for some time, since the yard, formerly a ro-ro specialist, has branched out into other complex newbuilds, including ships for offshore service as described last month.

Designed for tough, round-the-clock operation, Loch Seaforth is the first ro-pax ship built by Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) in five years. Having said that however, she is just one of an expanding variety of special ships now emerging from the German yard. These days those ships include not only ro-ro types but also specialised and complex newbuilds for offshore service.

FSG earned a reputation for quality in the 1990s with container ship series like Ecobox and C-box. It garnered even more praise after recognising market ebb and flow and switching to ro-ro and ro-pax ship construction. It has built around 50 since 2000 and remains the world’s leading ro-ro builder. Despite the gap between the delivery now of Loch Seaforth and the handover in 2009 of Northern Expedition, FSG has never stopped building ro-ro ships.

The latest cargo ro-ro, UN Istanbul,  was delivered just last year to Turkey. She followed sisters Ulusoy14 and Ulusoy 15, also for a Turkish owner and the latest of 15 ships in 14 years for FSG’s most prolific customer – the one who sparked the ro-ro switch at FSG. That trio of 208m long ships, for 283 trailers on 4,094 lane-metres are the longest ro-ro cargo ships ever built by FSG. They were joined in 2013 by a completely new FSG con-ro design - the flexible 210m, 19,300dwt Oceanex Connaigra for Canada.

Just a couple of years ago, FSG tacked yet again, taking orders for heavy lift/project cargo ships and then gaining a foothold, parallel to ro-ro, in the offshore sector. Progress there has been swift and yard production now includes offshore seismic and well-intervention ships of cutting-edge design and complexity.

FSG’s phenomenal success in this new sector, where it now sees its future, is grounded in the quality, design and engineering know-how it has built up over the years in the building of ro-ro types. The yard recognises however that the demand for sophisticated, tailor-made ro-ro tonnage is still high. Loch Seaforth is the latest example of that.  

Another is the yard’s first order, taken just this year, from Australia. That 181m ro-ro ferry for SeaRoad will also be the first LNG-fuelled ro-ro ferry of her size in the world – and will reflect how design and R+D never stand still at FSG. Further proof of that is the fact that nearly five years of yard project work with the Australians have gone into the SeaRoad design.

We will have to wait until 2016 for the characteristics of the ground-breaking new Aussie ship to become fully apparent when she enters service. Loch Seaforth, on the other hand, is to hand now and reflects the current advanced state of FSG ro-pax design and development as she enters tough service off Scotland five years after Northern Expedition. The earlier $133 million, 17,729gt type 600 ship, built for heavy duty with Canada’s BC Ferries, was bigger at 150.75m and 23m wide, but carried only 600 passengers and 130 cars on 720 lane-metres.

The type 700 ro-pax Loch Seaforth, which has cost £41.8 million, is much smaller at 8,680gt, 117.9m long and 19.2m wide but still carries up to 700 passengers and 142 cars or 20 trucks on 376 lane-metres. She was designed for Scotland’s Caledonian Maritime Assets (CMAL) a publicly owned company with Scottish Ministers as the sole shareholder, for Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), and is the first ship ever ordered by CMAL from a German yard.

Intended for 24-hour continuous service between Stornaway on the mainland of western Scotland and Ullapool on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, she replaces two ferries which have previously served the route.

CMAL said the decision to choose a single replacement vessel followed a detailed Scottish Transport appraisal as well as technical and financial analyses and extensive community consultation on ferry options. The superior Loch Seaforth, it added, would be faster, quieter and more reliable than current vessels and adaptable to accommodate growth in traffic.

She is one of 31 ferries which are leased to CalMac Ferries Ltd for use on ferry services on the Clyde and Hebrides. CMAL, which also owns property at piers and harbours in more than 20 locations in Scotland, is involved in a programme of investment and improvements to create better facilities.

Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown said of Loch Seaforth: “The cutting edge design means the new vessel will be more fuel efficient and use a quarter less fuel than the combined fuel consumption of both vessels currently in operation. The new vessel will also incorporate new enhanced technical reliability which will allow maintenance during operation, in turn minimising down time”.

FSG said it beat off international shipyard competition to win the order and added “there were some good reasons for this”. Managing director Peter Sierk explained that: “Serving this route with just one rather than two ships was the most economic solution. Doing so means however, that the new ferry has to be capable of meeting very high demands on a daily basis. Quite apart from quality, the ferry has to be as reliable as possible so that timetable delays and even breakdowns can be avoided.” Mr Sierk’s yard claims low lifecycle costs as a result of fuel efficiency, as well as reduced maintenance costs and he says, in addition, that Loch Seaforth demonstrates excellent sea keeping behaviour and has been especially designed for the rough waters of the Outer Hebrides.

FSG said it had been able to convince the Scots there were some telling advantages in ordering at the experienced German yard – such as proven delivery and deadline reliability, high economic efficiency and cost effectiveness. Added to that were an outstanding price-performance ratio and quality shipbuilding along with low operational costs and low emissions, it said. Flensburg claims as standard that all its ship designs not only consume up to 30% less fuel than conventional vessels but also have particularly low emission levels.

“This order demonstrates once again that we can score points with individual and innovative solutions which are in the best interests of the customer. That’s our forte”, said Mr Sierk. “We understand customer demands, come to grips with them and in the end come up with a concept which is just what the customer wants.” Because FSG is good in the research and development sectors, “we are able to convert this strength into a real competitive advantage”, he declared.

FSG lists a number of innovative features on the latest ro-pax design, among them a hybrid diesel electrical and diesel mechanical propulsion concept specially designed for CMAL. It says the Loch Seaforth system provides significantly increased efficiency and fuel consumption compared to pure diesel-electric propulsion without negatively affecting the highest possible redundancy claimed for the ship.

Main engines are two 8L 32 units from Wärtsilä each of 4,000kW and using IFO 40 and MDO fuels. They operate over two Jahnel-Kestermann PGVC-850-500C gearboxes onto twin Ni-Al-Bronze MAN Alpha controllable pitch propellers of 4.10m diameter providing a service speed of 19.2 knots. Two AEM/AH630 LL4 PTIs are also listed, each of 3,500kW.

Three diesel-driven alternators and a harbour auxiliary engine are also on board, types Wärtsilä 8L 20 and Mitsubishi S6R2-T2MPTK-5 respectively, suitable for IFO 40 or MDO fuel. Among other installed units listed by FSG are Leroy Somer LSA 53 1 L95/6p and LSAM 50 2 M6 alternators.

Two FSG-designed twist-flow rudders with Costa bulbs are fitted on the ship as are two Brunvoll bow thrusters each of 900kW and a Brunvoll stern thruster, also of 900kW. The Total Watch bridge control system from Sperry is fitted for one-man operation while two Sperry Vision Master radar units are among other bridge installations.

Another innovation which FSG draws attention to is the newbuild’s optimised sea-holding bow form specially designed for Outer Hebrides operation.

Loch Seaforth, which has a crew of 43, boasts one fixed and two hoistable car decks and ramps at bow and stern. FSG says the stern ramp was specially developed for this ship and is an innovative broad and centrally-positioned unit which genuinely improves vehicle deck lane metre utilisation. There are also two passenger lifts and a service lift on board. Ramps and car decks are from MacGregor while Techwind supplied the lifts.


Length oa: 117.90m
Length bp: 111.45m
Breadth, moulded: 19.20m
Draught, scantling: 4.85m
Draught, design: 4.80m
Tonnage: 8,680gt
Deadweight at design draught: 1,434dwt
Deadweight at scantling draught: 1,522dwt
Lane-metres: 376
Capacity, cars: 143
Capacity, commercial vehicles: 20
Main propulsion: 2 x Wärtsilä 8L 32, each rated 4,000 kW
Service speed: 19.2 knots
Crew: 43
Class: Lloyd’s Register
Notation: +100 A1, Roll on/Roll off Cargo and Passenger Ferry, +LMC, NAv1, UMS, LI, ECO (IHM), IWS, PCAC 2,2, Green Passport, ShipRight (SCM), ShipRight (SERS)


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