Tasmanian shipbuilder Incat has celebrated the delivery of its latest large fast ferry, a 110m catamaran, for Virtu Ferries of Malta. Incat Hull 089, which will sail under the name Saint John Paul II, left Hobart on 6 February for delivery to Grand Harbour in the Maltese capital Valletta.

The Saint John Paul II is the 44th large commercial fast ferry delivered by Incat and the sixth in excess of 5,500 gross tonnes in the past decade; a decade also shared with 19 other Incat newbuilds of smaller passenger ferries and support vessels.

Incat Chairman Robert Clifford and Incat executives were joined in Hobart by Virtu Ferries executives Francis Portelli and Matthew Portelli to see the Saint John Paul II off on her delivery voyage via the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

“The 110m wave-piercing catamaran, one of the largest and most revolutionary built by the yard, is the first Incat newbuild vessel to join the Virtu fleet,” said Clifford. “Virtu Ferries was seeking increased reliability, seakeeping, passenger comfort, capacity and economy, with less operational downtime than vessels in its current fleet. They knew exactly what they wanted and, with the benefit of extensive tank testing and studies, we believe we have turned that vision into reality with Saint John Paul II.”

Incat CEO Tim Burnell added” “Despite being at the forefront of the industry for 40 years, Incat is still evolving the product. Using the latest computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and hydrodynamic free-running model test techniques, the well-proven Incat Wave Piercing Catamaran hullform has been further developed for Mediterranean winter conditions. The hydrodynamic tests were undertaken by Seaspeed Marine Consulting at the Ocean Basin and Ship Tank in Gosport, UK – facilities normally associated with UK Ministry of Defence projects.

“The result is a completely new bow arrangement and increased tunnel height, ensuring Saint John Paul II is truly fit for purpose on year-round ferry operations on what is an exposed Mediterranean island route.”

Francis Portelli, Virtu Ferries’ Chairman and Owner, stressed that since Malta is an island nation with a strong and growing economy, it was imperative that Virtu Ferries’ year-round lifeline passenger and freight services are reliable.

“During the winter months we can experience very strong winds and high waves on our route,” he said. “So we wanted a hull design developed to minimise fuel consumption and to increase passenger comfort and seakeeping performance, at the desired contract speed, in simulated sea conditions prevailing in the Malta Channel. This is in line with established green policies being recommended by the international maritime industry. Simply put, we want to provide our passengers and freight operators with the highest levels of service, reliability and comfort, yet at the same time, operate an economical and environmentally-sustainable high-speed service.”

Francis Portelli went on to compliment Incat and its collaborators: “As this project has evolved, we have enjoyed an excellent co-operative working relationship with Incat, Revolution Design and Seaspeed Marine, where they have listened to our particular requirements and continually evolved the design to a point where we are confident that we have a fantastic vessel suited not only to our requirements but to many other island communities around the world.”

The Saint John Paul II was completed under DNV GL classification society rules and she complies with IMO HSC Code 2000 rules, Malta flag statutory requirements and Italian port state requirements.

“For Virtu Ferries this new vessel provides a significant increase in capacity over their existing vessel operating on the Malta-Sicily route, offering 43% more truck capacity, 15% more passenger capacity and 7% more car capacity,” said Burnell.

At 1,000 tonnes deadweight, the vessel is the largest RoPax (roll-on/roll-off passenger) catamaran ever built for operation in the Mediterranean and is the second-largest in the world. She has capacity for 900 passengers on two decks and additional outside seating on both upper and lower passenger levels. The full span of the vehicle deck is designed to carry 23 heavy commercial trailers, equivalent to 490 truck lane metres or 167 cars.

Onboard Saint John Paul II, passengers can enjoy luxury lounges with a design based on 28 years of surveyed passenger feedback. The vessel has a three-class interior (VIP, business and economy) with a total of 1,134 seats of which 996 seats are inside and 138 outside. Outside seating is provided on both passenger decks.

On contractual speed trials off the southern coast of Tasmania, Saint John Paul II achieved speeds in excess of 38 knots running at 85% power and ballasted to 600 tonnes deadweight.