Interferry has unveiled a strategic plan promising to put safety issues at the heart of its work as the voice of the worldwide ferry industry. The pledge came at the global trade association’s 41st annual conference in Manila – a venue chosen to spotlight the challenges of domestic ferry safety in developing nations.
The plan signals Interferry’s overriding ambition to help lift ferry safety in all parts of the world to the very high standard already in place in North America and Europe, where casualties in recent decades have been extremely rare. Chairman Mike Grainger – managing director of Liferaft Systems Australia – told 307 delegates from 32 countries: “Safety is one of my passions. Interferry has developed a strategy taking us to at least 2020, and to be reviewed annually, that will promote safety and quality improvement alongside our role in helping to develop international regulations. Meanwhile we will extend internal and external networking opportunities to ensure that the knowledge and experience of our members is shared not only among themselves but with the industry and authorities at large.”
Grainger also announced that the association’s new CEO is to be Mike Corrigan – currently president and CEO of Canada’s BC Ferries and an Interferry director for six years – who will succeed interim CEO Darrell Bryan from April 1 next year. In a statement following his appointment, Corrigan underlined Interferry’s regulatory and best-practice objectives by stressing: “I believe the experience I’ve gained for the past 13 years in leadership positions at BC Ferries can be leveraged to good effect in my new role.”
A comprehensive conference agenda explored topics ranging from technical innovations – including autonomous vessels, propulsion systems and alternative fuels – to loyalty cards, insurance risk assessment and the impact of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU). But safety was the event’s dominant theme in a region where the purpose-built FastCat fleet operated by host company Archipelago Philippine Ferries is a pioneering rarity in efforts to enhance safety and service levels in the emerging world.
Safety failures: reasons and remedies
A string of speakers listed the main causes of incidents on domestic ferry services in developing nations – unsuitable and poorly maintained vessels, ill-qualified crew, overloading, inadequate weather forecasting and lack or sluggish enforcement of rules. Delegates heard that the global ferry industry carries more than two billion passengers per year, almost half of them in SE Asia. Some 95% of the estimated 2,000 deaths per year occurred in emerging nations – a death toll equating to just one passenger per million but which speakers insisted could be reduced if stakeholders joined forces to take action.
Ashok Mahapatra, director of the IMO maritime safety division, was the keynote speaker in a mark of the organization’s long-running joint initiative with Interferry on domestic ferry safety. He asserted that safety standards should be the same on all ships, whether on domestic or international voyages, but the IMO could not enforce this on domestic routes because that was at the discretion of national maritime administrations. “For now we must accept the realities of what can be afforded to the highest practical standards,” he conceded, “but I would encourage relevant governments to have the primary long-term objective of uplifting to somewhere near SOLAS standards within 15-20 years. IMO has developed global regulations for non-convention ships and if governments request help we will give it.”
Capt. Nurur Rahman, Papua New Guinea’s maritime safety operations manager, recalled the Rabaul Queen disaster of 2012, when more than 100 died after the overloaded ship was engulfed by large waves. “She was built for service in the inland Sea of Japan, not for Force 10 winds and swells of five metres, and never stood a chance in those conditions. Enough is enough – no more loss of lives due to unsafe ferries. We need a concerted effort by governments, owners and designers.”
Michael Niemann, fleet manager of Australia’s SeaLink Travel Group, proposed a strategy for safer domestic ferries based on universal uniformity of standards. “We need to adopt a holistic approach and support those nations that need help,” he urged. “But the solutions need to be economic as well as practical – set the bar too high and everyone will just walk under it.”
Murray Goldberg, founder and CEO of world-leading specialist Marine Learning Systems, reviewed the SailSafe management/union joint initiative in place at BC Ferries since 2007. This features a Standardized Education and Assessment (SEA) program blending eLearning and face-to-face learning, which experience had shown was more effective than either element used alone. As he reported: “It’s fair to assume that this has been a major factor in accidents dropping by 60%, on-time performance improving by 92%, insurance claims costs falling 75% and days lost being cut by a third.” Jeff Joyce, head of terminal engineering at BC Ferries and the project leader, cited the key lessons for success, which included engagement from all levels of personnel and a conservative start – “if you’re going to fail, fail small” – to pilot further development.
Neil Baird, chairman of the World Ocean Council corporate responsibility alliance, presented his research into every known casualty over the past 50 years, which showed that 90% of accidents and deaths were directly attributable to human error and should be readily preventable. He then criticised maritime authorities for appearing ‘very unconcerned’ about domestic safety regulations, claiming: “Compatible and competing industries, especially aviation, have made dramatic safety improvements over the past 30 years that apply across the industry. There are too many platitudes from the IMO and national governments concerning regulatory and enforcement deficiencies. I think it’s obscene to say we can’t get involved in domestic regulation.”
Johan Roos, Interferry regulatory affairs director, pointed out that IMO’s remit was as a facilitator enabling member states to come together. “When we bash the IMO and ask them to do more, we need to remember they are not allowed to intervene on domestic safety because then you run into sovereignty issues,” he argued. “We really need to ask about our own member states – for instance, why don’t the EU or all developed nations do more? We as an industry must try to do something more rapidly.” He went on to indicate Interferry’s current input on regulations covering emissions, ballast water management, fire safety and notably damage stability. He suggested that proposals for designing unsinkable ships via increased sub-division of decks ignored the industry’s progress on the human element – and could halt ferry newbuildings unless a sector-specific solution could be agreed.
Ari Huttunen, head of ferry design at Finland-based marine engineering company Foreship, outlined the ‘much more demanding’ requirements being proposed under SOLAS 2020 for increased damage stability – higher freeboard, wider beam and extra sub-division on vehicle decks. “The semi-watertight sub-division is effective but consumes vehicle space and harbour time,” he acknowledged. “Hopefully there is room to agree a workable solution, so I think we can still design a feasible ferry.”
Paivi Haikkola, head of R&D at naval architects Deltamarin, introduced her company’s concept of safe and affordable ferries purpose-designed for Far East markets. Taking account of the main reasons for incidents, she said the high freeboard designs combined sub-divided hulls, reliable propulsion with power margins for bad weather and passenger spaces that inhibited overcrowding while providing large mustering areas. By using popular steel profiles and locally sourced equipment, the vessels offered a valid compromise of construction and operating costs.
Brexit: challenges & opportunities
Britain’s national referendum ‘Brexit’ vote in June to leave the European Union prompted a fighting speech from Guy Platten, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, despite his admission that the ferry sector could be hit especially hard.
Among potential negatives, he listed a substantial reduction in freight traffic due to controls on goods movements, as well as a loss of ex-UK tourist traffic because of deterrents such as customs restrictions and intrusive passport checks. More positively, he cited the possible reintroduction of duty-free sales and simpler VAT accounting rules for freight activity.
There was no point in complaining about Brexit – we just had to accept it and get on with the challenges but also the opportunities.
“Dozens of countries have already approached the UK for trade deals and I’ve no doubt they’ll get one,” said Mr Platten, stressing that 45% of UK exports go to the EU while the reverse trade accounts for 53% of UK imports. “Ferries are the foundation on which the UK’s trading relationship with Europe is underpinned – 17% of UK international trade goes through Dover alone.”
He went on: “If we are talking about places where, politically and economically speaking, it is good to do business, the EU might not come up to scratch. Leaving could potentially provide the UK with a new sense of purpose and focus. Our flag can be more competitive, our tonnage tax more attractive and our workforce more skilled. And we could have a stronger voice at the IMO, particularly for members not happy with EU intent.”
Leading edge: cutting costs and emissions
Conference sessions exploring the latest ferry technology showcased a wide range of innovations offering benefits like lower operating costs and reduced emissions.
Alternative fuels featured in several presentations. Dr. Gerd-Michael Wuersig, DNV-GL’s business director for LNG fuelled ships, described a unique solution for a dual-fuel ro-ro vessel being built for SeaRoad Shipping to operate in environmentally sensitive Australian coastal waters. The ship will store LNG in three aft-located road tank trailers that have been purpose designed as portable shipboard tanks. In 68 risk assessment scenarios, nothing had been found to prevent certification of the system.
Mike Howie, product manager for the Cavotec MoorMaster automated vacuum mooring system, joined Wartsila Norway business development manager Harald Tillung to describe their venture in developing combined mooring and induction charging connections for electric ferries. The unique arrangement was said to allow longer charging times during turnaround, reduce energy and maintenance costs and save further energy by removing the need for thrusters. The first system is due to be installed in Norway in the near future.
Work by two Australian companies to develop a high performance electric energy source was explained by Dr. Patrick Glynn of Climate Change Technologies, who has combined with medium speed ropax ferry specialist Sea Transport Solutions to find an alternative to lithium ion battery technology – enabling a zero emissions vessel to compete on speed and voyage length without the need for charging throughout the operating day. Using thermal energy storage, their Thermodynamic Energy Device (TED) increased the power density of the energy source by a factor of 2.5, allowing a vessel to operate hundreds of nautical miles per day at speeds of around 15 knots with only overnight charging and at a ‘very competitive’ cost of $100 per kWh stored.
Propulsion systems were examined by two speakers. John W. Waterhouse, of US-based Elliott Bay Design Group, said that new technologies such as alternative fuels and hybrid propulsion complicated the decision process. His company had run computer models of three machinery sets – diesel, diesel-electric hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells with electric propulsion – to compare capital costs, operating expenses and emissions output. He noted that ‘diesel-electric with a large battery began to move the needle on fuel savings with no great difference in costs compared with a small battery’ – but stressed that systems had to be matched to the route for optimal energy management.
Takuya Tachikawa, assistant design manager at Japan’s Nakashima Propeller, highlighted the energy loss recovery features of the company’s new passenger vessel GPX propeller, which had been developed to meet EEDI requirements. Small blade area reduced frictional resistance by 20% and tip rake technology reduced hull vibration, producing an average 4.3% reduction in fuel consumption during sea trials on a car ferry. A newly developed ‘Eco-Cap’ that could be combined with the propeller used a fin design to diffuse resistance and had cut fuel consumption by a further 2.3%.
Jane Jenkins, lead specialist in the Lloyd’s Register passenger ship support centre, gave shipowners a practical guide to challenges and solutions in delivering successful designs. “A lot of people in the ferry industry are looking at newbuilding – it’s a very positive time compared with other sectors,” she noted. However, a shortage of slots could mean that orders were placed at yards with no passenger ship experience, and even regular customers ‘always wanted something different under the bonnet’ to take advantage of new technologies. She also warned that subcontractors and suppliers were the most difficult areas to manage, stressing: “Mistakes in purchasing and delays in labour scheduling have serious implications for the contract delivery.” The key to success lay in knowledge of requirements, sound contracts, good leadership, strong project management and close collaboration.
Oskar Levander, VP Innovation at Rolls-Royce Marine, delivered a progress report on ‘the dawn of the ship intelligence era’ and revealed that a new stage was imminent in developing smart ferries. He explained that ship intelligence covered three main pillars – asset management, decision support and ultimately remote and autonomous operation – designed to offer more efficient and safer operation while enhancing shipping’s integration into the total logistics chain. The first steps involved small ferries and automatic crossing systems had already been developed. In the next stage, a situational awareness package – which will combine existing technologies such as radar, GPS, AIS and LIDAR – is being installed on two new electric ferries due for delivery to Norwegian operator Fjord 1 next year for operation from January 2018. “It seems likely that the ferry industry will be one of the forerunners for the introduction of more intelligent marine applications but it’s not just about small ferries – there’s a lot of interest regarding bigger vessels,” said Mr Levander, who predicted ships would be operating with reduced crew and remote support before 2020, while remote-controlled unmanned coastal operations would follow by 2025.
Anti-fouling paint technology was discussed by Marilyn Bruno, CEO and co-founder of US company Aequor, which is developing a greener alternative to metal-based coatings that can be used alone or as bio-boosters to improve the performance of existing products. As she recalled: “We’re losing the war on bacteria and their biofilm protection mechanism, so we started by investigating what in nature inhibits the fouling of natural underwater surfaces.” Research found a new genus and several new species of marine microbes that produce non-toxic chemical agents with the ability to inhibit or remove 99.99% of fouling. Aequor has developed a portfolio of more than 40 structural analogues to test which chemical works best on each target – hulls, underwater gear, ballast tanks and water pipes. The company is now planning pre-production pilot tests, including trials with the US Navy.
Innovation: customer-facing initiatives
Kemal Heryandi of the Indonesian Ferry Ro-Ro Association described his government’s Marine Highway project, launched last November, which provides subsidised services on core routes in the world’s largest archipelagic country of 17,500 islands. By enhancing connectivity, the main aim is to decrease logistics costs and therefore reduce the price of goods to consumers. Mr Heryandri said that 350 vessels were currently involved in the scheme but an estimated 500 would be needed with freight load factors already at 83% and on a rising trend. “We are transforming the network and by 2025-2030 logistics costs could decrease by 5% of GDP,” he concluded.
Marko Cicin Sain, CFO of state-owned Croatian ferry operator Jadrolinija – hosts for Interferry’s 2017 conference – outlined a mobile ticketing and boarding system that the company had developed in-house and implemented within six months. He explained that local inhabitants generally bought tickets only minutes before boarding, a particular problem in high season. The system introduced an Islander card, which identifies and authorises holders for their allocation of 30 free tickets per year and supports on-line prepayment at a discounted rate of 50% at other times. Since the launch was completed in 2015, 110,000 cards had been issued and by August 2016 some 800,000 tickets had been sold via the platform. Jadrolinija is now developing a multimodal extension of the system to include coach, rail and air transport by the first half of 2017 and also plans to add destination marketing by 2018.
Risk assessment: an insurer’s perspective
Sam Kendall-Marsden, head of the UK & Americas division at UK-based insurer The Standard Club, explained the key risk assessment criteria used to analyse the quality of shipowners’ operations. A ‘member risk review’ assessed the ability of a company’s management team to run a commercially successful business with the means to support safe operation at all times. Ships were assessed according to structural condition and maintenance records, crew manning levels and operational safety performance including loss, injuries and pollution. He identified specific ferry risks as vehicle deck condition, equipment and operations; flooring, lighting and security in passenger areas; passenger safety drills; and food storage and preparation.