Sembcorp Marine (Sembmarine) of Singapore is perhaps best known for its offshore projects, which have seen the group produce semisubmersibles, FPSO units and offshore structures for a wide range of international clients. So, the landing of a design-and-construction contract for three double-ended, battery-powered ro-pax ferries could be viewed as a notable departure for the firm. These zero-emission vessels were ordered by Norwegian ferry operator Norled to fulfil shortsea hops between Hella, Vangsnes and Dragsvik, and the trio will be built to design specs provided by Sembmarine subsidiary LMG Marin – a Norway-headquartered company which Sembmarine acquired in 2016.
Reflecting on this contract, Heng-Jack Tan, head of Sembcorp Marine’s Specialised Shipbuilding division, tells Ship & Boat International: “We see sizeable market potential for passenger vessels, including ro-pax ferries, with demand arising from fleet renewal and market growth. There is also a drive towards cleaner propulsion, which [we] can support with our comprehensive suite of green technology solutions.”
Although the ferry market is somewhat new to Sembmarine, Tan doesn’t view it as an entirely alien sector. “We’re particularly strong in the cruise repair and upgrade segment,” he remarks. “Our Specialised Shipbuilding business also has a track record of designing and constructing various vessel types. Going into ferry construction, particularly given the promising opportunities in this segment, is a natural progression for [us].” He adds: “LMG Marin has strong design-and-build capabilities for ferry and expedition ship design.”
Not only this, but Tan believes that Sembmarine’s background in offshore vessel design and construction could grant its consequent ro-pax concept a distinct edge compared to conventional ferry types. “With our deep experience in the design, engineering and construction of offshore structures and specialised vessels that meet stringent offshore safety standards in Norway and the UK for operation in harsh environments, we are able to bring to ferry projects the same expertise that will enable the passenger ships to operate safely, reliably and efficiently,” he says.
The three ferries will be built entirely at Sembmarine’s facilities. Each will feature: an overall length of approximately 82.4m; a maximum breadth of 16.8m (or 16.4m moulded); a hull depth of approximately 5m; and a scantling draught of approximately 3.2m. In addition to carrying 300 persons, each ro-pax will be able to transport 80 cars, or a combination of 10 trailer trucks and 10 cars, courtesy of a single, 80m vehicle deck.
Tan confirms that each ferry will be fitted with a pair of 1,000kWh-rated, lithium-ion battery packs for propulsion. Norled will keep the batteries topped up via shore-side hydroelectric recharging points dotted along the trio’s service route, and this power rating should guarantee pure-electric sailings at 10knots. However, each ferry will also be fitted with two biodiesel-fuelled engines for back-up, and these can be used to recharge the batteries and provide extra power.
Norled famously took delivery of the ZeroCat 120 concept Ampere, hailed as the world’s first all-electric car ferry, in January 2015.