The Edge: Fast Ferries
The Fast Ferry Edge
The global ferry business carries slightly over 2 billion passengers per year – nearly the same number of passengers flying commercial airlines. Global ferry revenues for 2010 was USD $15,424,836,479. Of this, $4,318,954,214 came from “walk-ons”, the 574,580,488 passengers who use ferries to commute without bringing a vehicle on board.
The Opportunity: Speed and Flexibility
While the industry carries an equivalent number of passengers to the airlines, its revenues are a mere fraction – $15.4 billion to $598 billion. The two greatest differences between the two industries are speed and flexibility. Ferry cycles for even short distances can be measured in hours while terminal costs limit flexibility in the number of departure points. Speed kills and the time lost to commuters due to the lack of both presents a clear opportunity for safe, fast and comfortable solutions.
“Fast Ferry” (Catamarans) Competition
With speeds of 30-40mph, SPI views “high speed” catamarans as the only real competition in the ferry market. Therefore we have chosen to focus on our competitive edge over these craft.
Seaphantoms clearly represent such a solution in speed and comfort. But perhaps more importantly, their size and shallow draft mean that they allow for the relatively inexpensive ability to create a network of ports that would provide the desperately needed flexibility in departure points – an Intracoastal Ferry Network.
Intracoastal Ferry Networks (IFN)
Suddenly, the ferry industry would be more analogous to a high-end, high-speed bus service, providing low cost transport that would be a game-changer for commuters and could expect to see even greater growth rates than that of the boom in commuter airline service being seen i the Asia Pacific.
Emissions vs Transit Speed
Due to new International Maritime Organizations rules concerning emissions, ferries have been forced to use a higher grade fuel which has doubled their fuel costs. In response, most ferry operators have reduced their speed by half to offset this cost increase. This means that the average ferry now travels at 5.5 mph compared to the much greener Seaphantom at 120mph.
Seaphantoms operate at a cruise speed of 120 mph with round trip fares comparable to a one way fare on a 30-35 mph so-called “fast ferry”.
A typical catamaran “fast ferry” costs more than $100 million new. For that same $100 million, 14 Seaphantoms could be purchased with a distributed capacity exceeding that of an 800 passenger fast ferry.
annotated Canadian analysis
The Canadian government built 3 fast catamaran ferries at a cost of USD $348 million to service the Vancouver area. An analysis by the Auditor General of British Columbia revealed the government’s following concerns regarding fast ferry catamarans:
High fuel consumption. The four 8,375 brake horsepower (6.2 MW) engines driving their waterjets required an inordinate amount of diesel fuel. Fully loaded and traveling at top speed of 34 knots/ 63 km an hour required the engines to be used at 90% power. This was largely due to BC Ferries’ insistence on using diesel engines rather than the more efficient gas turbines that were originally planned. This may be a false claim. The MTU engines selected and used were (and remain) state of the art for high speed engines. Their fuel consumption at 90% load is approximately 206 gm/kWhr. Comparable gas turbine would be the Kawasaki GBP70 at 6639 kW and a fuel consumption of 284 gm/kWhr or about 36% higher.
Due to Seaphantoms ground effect design, SPI vessels experience only a fraction (1/800) of the drag that ships plowing through the water thus using substantially less fuel/passenger.
Due to an unusually wet and windy winter, there was a higher than normal amount of flotsam in the waters along the route, some of which was sucked into impellers for the ferries’ engines, causing breakdowns and sailing cancellations.
SPI vessels’ size, maneuverability and forward looking bio-detecting sonar systems minimize the risk of collision with such flotsam as well as marine mammals.
When operated at full speed, the Pacificat fleet created a wake which was reported to have damaged waterfront wharves and property in coastal areas near the two terminals. This required that the ferries reduce speed in certain areas and alter course in others, reducing their speed advantage.
SPI’s smaller vessels and unique ground effect design can be modified to substantially reduce their already minimal wave impact on shorelines.
Loading took longer than the older ferries due to balancing issues. This further negated the ships’ speed advantage.
Such loading issues don’t exist with SPI vessels since we don’t carry vehicles. SPI vessels are designed to provide a high speed, flexible and inexpensive transportation mode for commuters and travelers who want to get to their destinations safely, quickly and comfortably. It should be noted, that SPI vessels can also serve the scenic tourist market by merely traveling slower, thus providing a greener and faster loading alternative to all other modes of transportation.
impact: imo emission rules
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) implemented a requirement in 2010 cutting carbon emissions from vessels entering signatory ports. The stricter rules meant that ferries using low sulfur fuels had to change to diesel, thus doubling their fuel costs.
The graphs on the right illustrate the operators’ response, with most choosing to halve their transit speeds to half rather than absorb the cost or raise fares. Typically this meant reducing their transit speed from an average 11 mph to 5.5 mph. For commuters this typically meant a minimum one hour of additional lost time while giving SPI an even greater edge with its high speed capabilities.
Intracoastal Ferry Networks (IFN)
|041||E-041||Port of New York||NY|
|042||E-042||Port of Tacoma||NY|
|062||E-062||Havre de Grace||MD|
|124||G-017||Port St Joe||FL|
|180||W-036||South San Francisco||CA|
|183||W-039||Half Moon Bay||CA|