By RYAN KING
PORT AUX BASQUES — On Wednesday, July 21, Marine Atlantic announced that they have entered into a five-year charter agreement with Stena North Seas Ltd. to deliver a new vessel. The newest addition to the Crown corporation’s fleet is tentatively scheduled to arrive in late Spring 2024.
According to the announcement, the new ship will carry both commercial and passenger vehicles, and will be able to transport up to a thousand passengers. The ice-classed vessel will be approximately 200 meters long and have 146 cabins.
Marine Atlantic CEO, Murray Hupman, explained that bringing in the new vessel is a part of the company’s continuous process of keeping the fleet modern and efficient.
“As an organization, we continue to replace and modernize and upgrade our fleet as required. So back a number of years ago, back in 2010 and 2011, we replaced the Caribou and Smallwood with new platforms, the Blue Puttees and Highlanders. And as a part of that ongoing cycling of capacity, it’s time to start looking at a replacement ship for the other two vessels. What we would say is that this is just part of the continuation of delivering the service, that we would be looking at replacement ships not on a very periodic basis, but absolutely every ten to fifteen years we would be looking at a vessel that would come into service,” said Hupman
The new vessel will also be equipped with environmentally friendly green ship technology, such as the construction measures that will reduce underwater noise, reducing the impact on marine life. But that is only the beginning.
“For instance, the main propulsion system on this ship is a dual fuel propulsion system. It has the ability to burn marine diesel oil, but it also has the ability to burn natural gas,” explained Hupman. “The other item is that we also have battery technology on the ship. The battery technology allows us to plug the vessel in every day, and we’re able to run a lot of the ship’s systems off battery, as opposed to say, running it off a generator that consumes diesel fuel. On top of that, there are a number of design feature in terms of the hull construction that actually improves the efficiency of the ship, which means that we burn less fuel, all of which reduces our carbon footprint. And that’s a good thing for everybody.”
While the vessel will be configured similarly to the other ships in the fleet, the amenities go beyond the more spacious and pet-friendly cabins, with the added introduction of the passenger pods that can accommodate two passengers.
“That’s something completely new to our service, but we have forty of them. So we are expecting them to be very popular because they are like a private room where you can sleep, and you can get away from the general public,” said Hupman.
Additionally, there will be a bar and lounge area, restaurant, snack-bar, gift shop, and the vessel will be configured to meet all accessibility requirements. All this will be done with comparatively more modern design and flair than the other ships currently in the fleet.
“We will also have the same level, if not a little bit more, carrying capacity on the ship as well. So, we will be able to take more traffic. It is definitely something that is an enhancement from where we are today, but as technology and things changes, and design changes, we know that we’re always leapfrogging that,” said Hupman.
In terms of what route this vessel will be servicing, that has not yet been fully decided. However, it has been constructed to fulfill its role on either the Port aux Basques to North Sydney route, or the Argentia to North Sydney route. This detail will be worked out over the next couple of years.
When Marine Atlantic brings in a new vessel, it usually means that it replaces another aging one in the fleet. However, Hupman says it’s too soon yet to state what will happen.
“There have been talks and some discussions, but that is a dialogue that we will have internally to the organization, and then obviously a dialogue we will have with our shareholders as we get closer to the date of delivery. We will be making some more firm decisions about how the fleet will be configured, and which vessels may be replaced, and which vessels may be staying,” said Hupman.
Should it replace one of the existing vessels in the fleet, what happens to the old one depends on which is replaced, Hupman explained. For example, if the new vessel were to replace the Atlantic Vision, the Vision would go back to its owners as it is currently on charter. If it replaces the Leif Ericson, the Ericson would likely be sold on the open market, since that ship is close to 35 years old.
The new vessel does not yet have a name. Hupman says that the public may be solicited for their input.
“We will actually have a naming process, and lots of times we’ve gone out to the general public seeking some support on that. In the past we’ve had actual competitions that say, ‘Name this ship.’ So, we will definitely be looking at that closer as the project progresses,” said Hupman.
More information on the new ferry will be unveiled as the process evolves and the delivery date approaches.
“As we start to get things solidified, we will definitely be out more and more to the general public. So, stay tuned. All I can say is that it’s a very exciting time for us, and we would also say that to Newfoundland and Labrador, a very exciting time for Newfoundland and Labrador as well. Anytime that we get the opportunity to bring in a new vessel, it’s a big time for us,” said Hupman.