NW Builders Continue to Launch Innovative High-Speed Craft


Former Hawaii Superferry Alakai, now The Cat, is on a two-year charter with an option for a two-year renewal, with Bay Ferries of Canada after a re-fit at Detyens Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Alistair Nicol courtesy of Detyens Shipyards.

In 2016, Northwest boat builders have continued to win contracts for innovative high-speed designs for a wide range of users from commuter ferries to military patrol boats. With its latest order for two 400-passenger 135-foot (41m) by 38-foot aluminum catamarans for San Francisco Bay, the Bay Area's Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) continues to set the standard in the U.S. in clean emissions and fuel efficiency

The $32 million project to replace two of the oldest craft in WETA's 12-vessel fleet began with the design from the international experts in mid-size catamarans, Incat Crowther of Australia. Seattle's Kvichak Marine Industries was again chosen as the builder. Kvichak (now a Vigor Industrial company) had constructed four similar 118-foot ferries for WETA from 2007 to 2010 with Nichols Brothers Boat Builders supplying the superstructures. The same collaborative method is being used for the new catamarans, with Kvichak responsible for the hulls, propulsion and deck.

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Pacific Power Group (PPG) of Washington continued its long and successful relationship with WETA by engineering a propulsion system with twin MTU 12V4000M 64+ engines rated at 1,950 HP (1,454 kW) and ZF 7600 reduction gears, turning Michigan Wheel CX-500 (NiBrAl) five-bladed propellers for a top working speed fully-loaded of 27 knots. PPG's engineers worked closely with the builders to develop a system that meets weight goals and provides easy installation and maintenance for WETA.

PPG put a high ­priority on reliability and space reduction and the avoidance of diesel particulate filters (DPF). Through the use of the Nauticlean system of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) from Swiss exhaust treatment specialist Hug Engineering, the system will reduce emissions by an estimated 10 tons of NOx, PM and CO emissions annually. Third-party emissions testing in January 2016 at PPG's dyno facility demonstrated the new boats will be the cleanest diesel-powered passenger ferries operating in the US.

"As the demand for cleaner-operating vessels continues to grow, we're proud to offer innovative, environmentally-friendly solutions that meet and exceed the unique demands our customers have for their vessels," said Bill Mossey, vice president of Pacific Power Group. "The propulsion and exhaust treatment system created by our marine team and partners makes these ferries some of the greenest operating passenger ferries in the nation."

Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Bros., notes "We completely outfit the catamaran except for the propulsion system, and we build the complete superstructure. Once the hulls arrive at Nichols, we mount the superstructure to the completed hulls and begin sea trials." Design improvements include the elevated wheelhouse that offers excellent visibility, large midship boarding doors that combine with aft gates to allow quick boarding and disembarking. The aft gates lead directly to the large aft bicycle storage area. Forward of this is an amenities area with three restrooms (two are fully ADA-compliant) and the snack bar. An extra-wide internal staircase leads from here to the upper deck, further aiding passenger flow.

"The whole Kvichak team is incredibly proud to have been selected to build WETA's two new state-of-the-art ferries," said Keith Whittemore, President of Kvichak Marine Industries. "We will build two great boats that will serve the citizens of the Bay Area for decades." The vessels are expected to enter service in the summer of 2017. The hulls have a maximum draft of 6.75 feet and a reduced wake profile compared to the rest of WETA's fleet, exceeding the stringent wake wash requirements set out in the tender, adds Art Parker, Kvichak's Sales Manager.

"The Vessel Replacement project is part of the ongoing fleet renewal process, which will enable WETA to provide reliable service across our system and enhance our customers' experience when traveling or commuting across the Bay," said Nina Rannells, WETA executive director. "The Vessel Replacement project is funded through a combination of Federal Transit Administration grant funds, Regional Measure 2 bridge tolls, State Proposition 1B grant funds, and Alameda County Measure B Transportation sales tax."

Salish Sea Dream

The Salish Sea Dream is a 76-foot (24 m) by 26.5-foot (8m) high-speed catamaran launched in July 2016 that is remarkable in several ways: it sets new standards as the biggest, most comfortable vessel in the Northwest in the field of eco-cruising/whale watching. It is also unique in having been built at Armstrong Marine, in Port Angeles, Washington, for Prince of Whales Whale Watching of Victoria, British Columbia. Armstrong Marine, Inc. actually began in B.C. in 1991 and relocated to Port Angeles, Washington in 2002. Since then, they have built more than 1,200 aluminum vessels, including several research vessels up to 55 feet long. To better fill orders from the East Coast, a production factory was opened in Swansboro, North Carolina in 2014.

The $2.5-million (US) catamaran was designed by Canadian Naval Architect Gregory C. Marshall utilizing computer fluid dynamics to ensure the most efficient hull form with the goal of combining the comfort and smooth ride of a large multihull with the intimacy of the company's smaller craft. The structures meet Transport Canada's TP 11717 Near Coastal Voyage II regulations and can also be classed by Lloyds as a Special Service Craft in the future, if necessary.

The Dream is powered by four Volvo Penta diesels to enable it to cruise at 30 knots to quickly reach the scenic islands and channels of the Salish Sea and areas where whales may be visible. There, low speed can easily be maintained using one engine in each hull, which also supplies redundancy in the event of a mechanical failure. MJP Ultrajet waterjets were chosen for reliability, maneuverability and protection for marine mammals.

"The new vessel will be cutting-edge, with high fuel efficiency and built with customer safety as the foremost priority," said Alan McGillivray, owner of the company. "It will be a vessel built specifically for this journey and every element has been considered." (BC boatbuilders were all too busy with existing contracts for the build, he explained.)

A maximum 94 passengers can be seated indoors or on deck, depending on the weather, which is expected to extend the season well into October. The continuous full-height Sea Glaze windows in the full-width superstructure will provide unequalled viewing.

Coincidentally, the engines are supplied by Pacific Power Group, which is also the Northwest dealer for Volvo Penta of Sweden. "The Volvo Penta commercial marine engine line has expanded our ability to meet the needs of the commercial market," said Bill Mossey, vice president of Pacific Power Group. "The D13 has proven to be a hardy workhorse for commercial operators with exceptional torque at low RPMs and unmatched fuel efficiency and low emissions, it is the perfect engine to power the Salish Sea Dream for up close viewing of these amazing animals in their natural environment."

The four Volvo Penta D13-700 turbo diesel engines meet Tier 3 commercial marine and IMO II emissions standards. They will each deliver 700 HP at 2,300 RPM, providing faster acceleration than heavier engines and a higher top speed. Pacific Power Group also supplied Volvo Penta Electronic Vessel Controls (EVC) and throttle controls to complement the propulsion system. The oil change interval is 1,000 hours.

A one-way fare between Vancouver and Victoria includes several hours of whale watching and costs about $210. There's enough time to slow down or stop the engines completely, depending on the wildlife. The interpretive time, with the assistance of an on-board naturalist, will take up half the trip. The round-trip "ultimate day tour" from Vancouver's Westin Bayshore dock to Victoria Harbour, with a stop at Butchart Gardens, is more than C$300. "It's a 10-and-a-half-hour day," McGillivray said.

Very Fast Coastal Interceptor

SAFE Boats International of Bremerton, Washington was awarded a contract by the US Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection – Air and Marine Operations to build up to 52 coastal interceptor vessels (CIV). Should all options be executed, the contract value would exceed $48 million. SAFE Boats describes its aluminum CIV as a 41-foot vessel, capable of high-speed interceptions and ultra-tight turns in close proximity to other vessels as well as open ocean speeds well over 54 knots.

SAFE Boats CIV is a variant of the SAFE 41 Center Console – Offshore, a commercially available interceptor design currently in service with the Royal Bahamian Police, Colombian Navy and a number of private owners. It is powered by an unusual system for an official government vessel – four Mercury Verado 300-HP supercharged outboard engines. "We are gratified to be selected and entrusted with this program by the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection," commented Dennis Morris, SAFE Boats president and CEO.

There was a rare pause on the production floor at SAFE Boats International in Bremerton on May 26, as more than 300 employees, government officials and officers of the US Customs and Border Protection agency celebrated the naming of the first Coastal Interceptor Vessel (CIV). This coincided with the delivery of SBI's two thousandth (2000) delivered craft. Each boat will cost around $750,000 to build and will be equipped with $450,000 in special equipment. Homeland Security will first deploy the new vessels in smuggling hotspots all across the US, from Florida to San Diego.

SAFE Boats (the acronym stands for Secured-Around-Flotation Equipped) builds 75 to 100 boats a year at facilities in Bremerton and Tacoma. About a year ago the company considered consolidating in its Large Craft Production Facility in Tacoma that benefits from close water access and is where the company builds its largest vessels, up to 85 feet in length. This is where SAFE Boats is constructing the MK VI Patrol Boats for the US Navy – part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command's (NECC) fleet of combatant craft with a capability to patrol shallow coastal areas beyond sheltered harbors and bays, and into open water.

The 85-foot MK VI PB is powered by twin MTU diesel engines and Hamilton waterjets, and is capable of speeds in excess 35 knots at full load with a range in excess of 600 nautical miles. It can be armed with a variety of crew and remotely operated weapons systems up to 25mm. The pilothouse is fitted with shock-absorbing seats with integrated work stations to reduce crew fatigue.

The SAFE Boats Bremerton plant is also delivering a total of 104 of the 26-foot US Coast Guard Over-the-Horizon small boats, to be launched off the stern of a cutter. This open boat can exceed 40 knots powered by a Cummins QSB 6.7 diesel engine and a Hamilton Jet HJ292 waterjet. The Bremerton location is landlocked, meaning boats must be taken by trailer to a public ramp for testing. SAFE Boats chose to keep both facilities, citing its relationship with the Bremerton community and port, and its established and highly skilled Bremerton-based workforce.

It is working with the Port of Bremerton to figure out how to expand its footprint there, and hire 30 to 40 new employees by the end of the year. The company doesn't disclose its sales, but a federal government contracting database indicates its annual revenues are about $70 million. SAFE Boats also sees room for growth in the international market. Through the US government's foreign military-sales programs and direct sales, it already has vessels operating in over 60 countries including Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Chile, Colombia and Israel.

Superferries Find New Home

The latest generation of catamarans has benefited greatly from prior experience overcoming problems like wake wash, reliability and public acceptance. The biggest setback came in 2009, when the first two large vessels built by Austal USA's Mobile, Alabama yard were withdrawn from service between Oahu and Maui in the Hawaii Superferry operation. Environmental protesters led Hawaii's Supreme Court to rule that a full environmental review was required.

These two 349-foot craft can carry up to 850 passengers, 20 trucks and 90 cars per run at a service speed of 35 knots. The Alakai and her sister ship Huakai were purchased at auction by the Maritime Administration in 2010, then transferred to the Navy in 2012. One is being retrofitted for use on the Westpac Express run to Guam, while the second, the USNS Puerto Rico, is on a two-year charter at $3.4 million a year, with an option for a two-year renewal, with Bay Ferries of Canada after a re-fit at Detyens Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina.

The international east coast route runs between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine in 5.5 hours. Although it is popular with American tourists, this route has not succeeded financially, with three operators failing in the last ten years. The last attempt by Nova Star Cruises using a conventional 528-foot vessel quickly collapsed last year because of unexpectedly poor ticket sales, despite $40 million in subsidies from the province of Nova Scotia.

But the ferry brings a lot of business to the province, so the government is providing C$9 million for work on the vessel, a $10 million subsidy for the first season, with $4.1 million for startup costs, including terminal upgrades in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

SAFE Boats International of Bremerton, Washington will build up to 52 coastal interceptor vessels (CIV) for the the US Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection – Air and Marine Operations. Photo courtesy of SAFE Boats International.


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