UK ferry operator Wightlink and shipbuilder Cemre Shipyard explain the benefits of battery propulsion and how Victoria of Wight was built to match the ports it serves
Wightlink’s Victoria of Wight is unique in several ways – it has been built specifically to overcome challenges in the ports that it serves – and it is a hybrid electric ferry.
Its project director John Burrows told Passenger Ship Technology the UK ferry operator received 22 tender responses from around the world and drew up a shortlist of five shipyards. Cemre Shipyard in Turkey scooped the contract because it fitted the criteria of a quality build of ship, price and delivery time. Wightlink also wanted a yard that had experience of building passenger ferries with an electric hybrid drive. Cemre shipyard ticked all these boxes.
One of the most innovative points about the ferry is that it runs on a hybrid battery propulsion system. Mr Burrows said “We had hoped to run on LNG initially but it is a bit of a chicken and egg product.” The issue was that Wightlink had been hoping one of the ports it was using would provide bunker facilities, but this did not materialise and Wightlink was not going to use enough LNG to make it worthwhile to invest in its own bunker facilities. Therefore, the company decided on a diesel battery hybrid system.
Batteries: why and how
Mr Burrows explained “We’re very lucky to live in one of most beautiful parts of the UK – we have a green agenda and are also very mindful that we operate very close to residential property. We were looking for a solution to minimise fuel consumption and that equals lower emissions, less pollution and a propulsion package that is significantly quieter than other ships.”
In Victoria of Wight, batteries provide a support service to the diesel generators in operation and work as harbor generators in harbour mode. The batteries are charged from diesel generators.
Four 1,100-kW engines are being used. Cemre Shipyard business development and sales specialist Burak Mursaloglu explained “Configuration with four diesel engines and the battery will operate using three engines with battery configuration. This figure will help Wightlink reduce fuel consumption and gives better maintenance value.”
He added “The technical challenge is making the vessel's power management and battery management completely linked to each other. This has been achieved by using an integrator company who knows communication between the battery and diesel generators very well. In Wightlink’s case Cemre worked with Wärtsilä for a complete package of engines, generators, main switchboards, drives and power management system.”
Mr Burrows added “The beauty of it is that any engine can drive any propeller, so if we take an engine out to do maintenance, all four propellers are still running.”
The vessel has two batteries housed in two battery rooms. Each battery has 408 kWh of power.
Mr Burrows said Wärtsilä would spend five days on the ship to observe operations and then programme the system at an optimum level to make sure the vessel was “drawing power when we should be for the biggest savings and least emissions”.
One of its kind
Victoria of Wight is innovative in other ways – Mr Mursaloglu said “the Wightlink ferry is an absolutely innovative project because it is one of its kind. It is not possible to operate this vessel in other ports. Wightlink has two independent car decks and shore solutions that mean the vessel will be loaded or unloaded very quickly. Manoeuvring performance is also extremely well-designed according to the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route.”
When it comes to the propellers, Mr Burrows said this was an easy choice. “All our ferries use Voith Schneider as they make the vessel extremely manouevrable. The turn in and out of the port is quite tight, we must move the bow and stern of the ship to control it and Voith gives us that. The other beauty is that they are extremely reliable and reliability of service is extremely important. There is no point having an all-singing, all-dancing ferry if it only operates 80% of time. Our reliability is over 99%.” Voith’s propellers are a major reason for this.
Voith’s scope of supply also included a control system with a heavily customised combination of joysticks and wheels/levers in four different control stands, including two wing stations to accommodate Wightlink’s operational requirements in a very confined harbour area. In addition to this, there are two monitor stands in the aft bridge and engineroom. The system offers a combinator mode for energy saving to complement the hybrid propulsion system.
Voith Schneider head of research and development Dr Dirk Juergens said “The VSP combines propulsion and steering in one unit and has proven itself to be consistently reliable with precise manoeuvring being a highly valued benefit.’
Mr Mursaloglu added “With Voith Schneider propellers, magnitude and direction of thrust can be set as necessary.” A circular disk with movable and controllable blades installed at a 90º angle to the disk rotates at the vessel bottom.
“The magnitude of thrust is determined by the rotational speed of the disk; the blade angle determines the direction of thrust. This will increase the manoeuvring capability.”
Space for cars and the ferry’s loading and unloading capabilities was also very important. Victoria of Wight has a beam of 90 m – 0.8 m wider than Wightlink’s other vessels in the fleet. Rather than having a side casing (stairwells and exhaust), as with the other vessels, Victoria of Wight has a centre casing. Mr Burrows said this not only uses less width than the other ferries but allows wider car lanes making it easier for cars to drive on.
The other unique method is using a two-car ramp instead of one. Mr Burrows said “The double-tier loading means we can use the top and bottom deck at the same time. The reason is speed of turnaround is on a very tight timetable. We only have 15-20 minutes to unload and load cars. When we loaded on St Clare (Wightlink’s second biggest vessel after Victoria of Wight) off a single ramp we struggled to keep it on time. The two tiers allow us to turn ships around much more rapidly.”
Victoria of Wight has seven decks. Mr Mursaloglu said “This is not a very common figure in daily crossing ferries and it is very unique that she will operate with 178 cars and 900 passengers on board. The advantage of building seven decks is it means you have very good space for cars and passengers.”
Highlighting the way the vessel has been built to match its particular ports, he summed up “The vessel has an asymmetric design adjusted according to its ports both in Portsmouth and Isle of Wight. In our case you cannot work with other ferries in this port and you cannot use this ferry in other ports due to the shape and conditions.”
Other innovations include that the vessel has been designed and developed to have less weight to reduce total consumption “in every manner”. The vessel’s upper structure is completely aluminium and especially in the interior areas, lighter material has been selected to reduce weight. Mr Mursaloglu added “This will help to reduce power requirements and make the vessel very efficient and environmentally friendly.”
Victoria of Wight
Length: 89.7 m overall length
Gross tonnage 8,041 gt
Class: Lloyd’s Register
Gen-sets diesels: Wärtsilä
Diesel alternators: Marelli Motori
Battery package: Corvus Energy
Propellers: Voith Schneider
Propulsion electric motors: Marelli Motori
IAS and PMS: Wärtsilä
Central heating system: Ulmatec Pyro
Bridge consoles: Elkon
Electrical design: Elkon
Main switchboards: Elkon
Interior design and furniture: Çita Marin
Interior panels and wet cabins: Mercan
Passenger seats: Etkin Marin, GRL, Cadý Design
Ventilation system: Heinen & Hopman
Intercom systems: EDEL
Radio/navigation and communication system: STT Elektronik
Common hydraulic aggregates: Mariner
Lighting fixtures: Lightpartner
Passenger and service lifts: Kone