Aluminium rather than steel was used when increasing the internal capacity of Red Funnel’s Red Eagle, to avoid losing cargo-carrying space
UK ferry operator Red Funnel carried out a £3.0M (US$3.9M) interior upgrade to its Red Eagle ropax in 2018 to increase facilities and lounge capacity – leading to stability obstacles.
The upgrade included increasing the number of seats from 300 to 550, installing a new galley, toilets, a pet lounge and a purpose-built ‘Signature Lounge’ offering a premium club experience. Modern seating, tables and LED lighting was added. Other new features included high-capacity wifi, USB charging points, air conditioning and digital entertainment.
The upgrade to Red Eagle comes on the back of similar upgrades to sister vessels Red Osprey and Red Falcon.
Red Funnel fleet and technical director Mark Slawson OBE told Passenger Ship Interiors & Refurbishment the aim was to improve customers’ experience by increasing the number of lounges, adding air conditioning, and providing increased seating capacity, particularly internal seating. He added “Responding to requests from a sizeable number of our passengers, we had recently introduced an executive-type Signature Lounge on Red Falcon and Red Osprey, so this was the opportunity to achieve commonality of customer offering, and bring Red Eagle back up to speed.”
Indeed, he said the main consideration in designing the package was ensuring there were as few differences between the other two ships and Red Eagle as possible due to positive feedback to the refit of the previous ferries. Furthermore, Red Funnel has a crewing arrangement that requires crews to operate across different vessels, so commonality of operation, equipment and facilities location was important.
Lounge upgrade versus cargo capacity
The major challenge was ship stability. Mr Slawson explained “If the upper lounges had been constructed in the same materials, and in the same way, as had been done previously the traffic load capacity would have been very much reduced.”
Therefore, he said that “to achieve a sizeable upgrade in facilities and lounges while not affecting our cargo capacity too detrimentally, the upper lounges were constructed from aluminium rather than steel”. This meant the lounges needed to be constructed undercover.
SMS completed building and installing the two new 17-tonne aluminium passenger lounges on board the Red Eagle ferry in partnership with its sister company Wight Shipyard Company.
SMS managing director Chris Norman said “This project is a great example of our inhouse capability. 17 tonnes of aluminium, over 2,500 man hours, and increasing internal passenger capacity by some 30%. This is a complete turn-key project from newbuild fabrication to onboard installation.”
The build programme took approximately six weeks at SMS’s Wight Shipyard Company with the installation revolving around the following key milestones over a four-week period: clearing the decks and fitting the upstand, shipping the units from the Island and fitting them, clearing approximately 80% of the two units for the fitout team, completing the window installations and then finally the snagging and client-agreed extras.
Mr Slawson commented “We know Wight Shipyard well as they have previously built our 40-m high-speed catamaran, Red Jet 6, from aluminium, undercover, in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.”
He added “There was a challenge associated with transporting two constructed lounges on a barge across the Solent to Southampton where the ship was berthed, and craning them into position, but with the assistance of Williams Shipping that was achieved.”
This marks a difference between Red Eagle with Red Osprey and Red Falcon: Red Eagle is a slightly different design with a larger main lounge and an extra deck below a higher bridge which made the vessel heavier than its sister ships. “To manage the weight of the new lounges these were designed in aluminium rather than steel,” said Mr Slawson.
Explaining why the number of seats was vastly increased, he said “The number of passengers we carry has increased over time. To ensure they can be comfortable for an hour-long crossing, a seat is fairly important. We changed the seating arrangements from the previous, space-inefficient, cubicle arrangements to a mix of tables with fixed seating and banks of airline type seating in the lower lounges.”
The newly fitted upper lounges were different: the pet lounge is more open plan and with less fixed seating, to cater for passengers travelling with their animals. The other upper lounge became the executive-type Signature Lounge. Mr Slawson said this has “an enhanced décor and more comfortable seating, offering the passenger an opportunity for greater comfort and some separation from the remainder of the passengers.” There is space for 42 passengers, who receive free drinks, pastries and newspapers during the voyage. A number of extra seats have been fitted elsewhere in the ship, “to ensure that our other passengers do not miss out on a seat”.
Speaking about the galley refurbishment, Mr Slawson said it was “required to enhance the catering offer to customers and to upgrade the facilities and bring them into line with food safety legislation that had developed since the original galleys were fitted.”
Asked what Red Funnel was looking for from key partners, such as the outfitter in the refit, Mr Slawson said “We knew this particular refurbishment period was going to be a challenge to complete in the time available, so one of the main attributes we were looking for was a credible and realistic planning capability, with a flexible and pragmatic approach to any issues that emerged as the plan was put into action, as they undoubtedly would.
“Attention to detail was also important, particularly as the majority of the work was in the customers’ eye-line for the whole of the journey across the Solent. And of course, value for money; this was a big project with a number of challenges included in it, but there was not an infinite budget to deliver it.”
Explaining why Trimline was selected for Red Eagle, he said Trimline had carried out the previous two refurbishments on Red Falcon and Red Osprey. “Choosing anyone else would have been a step backwards, failing to recognise and take advantage of lessons identified in the wash-ups following the previous projects,” he explained.
“Obviously, having Trimline effectively on the doorstep in Southampton, meant that discussion about different aspects of the project as it developed was easy to achieve, and this bowled out a number of issues as the planning process was developing, which made the project itself smoother than it would have been otherwise.”
Red Funnel chairman Kevin George added that having worked with them on other refits, they were confident of their ability to “deliver a complex, high quality project in a short time window”.
Mark Slawson (Red Funnel)
Red Funnel appointed Mark Slawson OBE as fleet and technical director on 15 September 2014.
Mr Slawson is a chartered engineer, a fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineers, and was awarded an OBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours, in recognition of his achievements in improving technical training within the Armed Forces.
His previous roles include commandant of the Defence Technical College, the organisation responsible for UK-wide engineering training, and 30 years of senior marine engineering experience with the Royal Navy. He acquired a high level of management experience as commanding officer of HMS Sultan in Gosport and as head of MOD’s fleet customer support team. Previous roles include superintendent of fleet maintenance at HM Naval Base Portsmouth, and substantial sea-going experience, including acting as the senior engineer officer on board the Royal Navy’s warship HMS Ocean.