Construction on the largest high-speed catamaran to operate in the Mediterranean Sea is set to begin in 2017. The new high-speed vehicle passenger (RoPax) ferry will be built by Incat Tasmania shipyard in Hobart, Australia, for Virtu Ferries, a Maltese ferry services operator.

Virtu Ferries operates ferries on numerous routes including ports in the Adriatic and between Malta and Sicily, Italy.

A contract worth approximately $80m for the design and construction of the ferry was awarded by Virtu Ferries to Incat Tasmania in October 2016. The planning and design phase of the project lasted for roughly one year.

Scheduled to be delivered at the end of 2018, the wave-piercing catamaran will join Virtu Ferries’ existing fleet of 14 high-speed craft. It will allow the company to provide year-round fast-ferry services between Malta and Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea basin with increased reliability and passenger comfort.

Design of Virtu Ferries’ new high-speed catamaran

The new RoPax vessel will feature a wave-piercing catamaran hull structure with two slender hulls built using welded and bonded aluminium. The hulls are connected by a bridging section. A wave-piercing type bow is installed in the centre line to provide increased speed and a comfortable voyage at sea.

The high-speed catamaran will be built as per the standards of DNV-GL classification society. The design techniques and safety features of the ferry will be designed in compliance with International Code of Safety for High Speed Craft (HSC) 2000 adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The ferry will also comply with the requirements of Italian Port State and will be registered under Malta Flag upon receiving necessary approvals.

With a dead weight of 1,000t, the vessel can carry up to 900 passengers. The overall length and breadths of the vessel are 110.6m and 28.2m, respectively.

Deck details of RoPax vessel

The high-speed wave-piercing catamaran vessel will be equipped with two passenger decks, containing four lounges.
The interior is designed to offer three classes of seating namely economy, VIP, and business. It will incorporate 996 indoor passenger seats and 138 outdoor passenger seats.

The garage deck of the ferry can accommodate up to 23 heavy commercial trailers / 167 cars / 490 truck lane metres.
Up to two rigid hulled boats will be carried at the stern of the ship to perform transportation tasks at sea. The boats can be launched or retrieved using a crane.

Operation and control of the vessel will be performed by its crew from the wheelhouse located amid ships. Marine radars and communication systems will be fitted atop the wheelhouse to ensure safe operation of the ferry.

Large windows on the passenger deck and bridge areas will provide unobstructed view of the sea to the occupants.

Propulsion details

The RoPax ferry will be powered by four MTU 20V 8000 series diesel engines, each generating an output power of 9,100kW.

The vessel’s propulsion system will also comprise four Wärtsilä LJX 1500 SRI modular waterjets, which ensure fast and reliable operation of the ferry by providing a 10% reduction in weight and improved fuel efficiency.

“The high-speed wave-piercing catamaran vessel will be equipped with two passenger decks, containing four lounges.”

The high-speed wave-piercing catamaran will also be installed with a Lipstronic control system, also developed by Wärtsilä, for controlling vessel speed, relative load, pitch and rotations per minute (rpm).

Performance of the RoPax ferry

Virtu Ferries’ new wave-piercing catamaran will have a service speed of 38kt. The ferry will be capable of completing its journey from Malta and Sicily in roughly 90 minutes.

The ship’s slender demi-hulls provide low wave-making resistance and high transverse stability.

Contractors involved

Incat Tasmania awarded a contract to Wärtsilä in April 2017 for the supply of water jet cutters. Delivery of the waterjets is scheduled for April 2018.

Revolution Design, an Australian company engaged in providing vessel design services, provided design and architectural solutions for Virtu Ferries’ new RoPax ferry (hull no. 089). The ship’s design was also supported by Seaspeed Marine Consulting.