Australian ferry builder Incat Tasmania’s world first high speed dual-fuel vehicle and passenger ferry is now officially fast with a lightship speed of 58.1 knots.

This is certainly the fastest ship in the world – but, of course, there’s a few  speed boats that could surpass 58 knots but nothing that could carry 1000 passengers and 150 cars, and with an enormous duty free shop on board.

Last week at 1516 tonne displacement trial she achieved 51.8 knots at 100% MCR operating with one turbine on LNG and one on marine distillate, exceeding the results achieved on 1st June when Francisco was sea trialled with full ballast comfortably exceeding 50 knots at full power and maintaining a steady 49 knots at 90% power while operating on marine distillate.

On Saturday 15th June, with the water ballast removed, and with both Port and Starboard Gas Turbines operating on LNG;  Francisco achieved 58.1 knots at 100% MCR.

The vessel’s high speed can be attributed to the combination of Incat wave piercing catamaran design, the use of lightweight, strong marine grade aluminium, and the power produced by the two 22MW GE LM2500 gas turbines driving  Wartsila LJX 1720 SR waterjets.  The extensive and luxurious interior made significant increases to the weight of the interior fitout, however the Incat team worked diligently to maximise weight savings during construction wherever possible. 

Francisco has been constructed for South American company Buquebus, for service on the River Plate, between Buenos Aires Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay. 

Incat is still not claiming 58.1 as the end point of lightship trials as there was a full load of LNG on board (two 40 cubic metre tanks) in addition to about 35 tonnes of marine distillate, with Incat Chairman Robert Clifford, saying,  “When we have less fuel on board, and delivery spares removed, we will see that speed go higher still in the shallow waters of the River Plate (Rio Plata).  We are delighted with the efficiency of the design and sure that our customer, Buquebus, will be pleased with the results, enabling the ferry to compete with airline traffic on the River Plate route.”

Buquebus Chairman Juan Carlos Lopez Mena recently announced that the vessel will  be named Francisco, in honour of the Argentinian born Pope Francis.  “Godmother” to the ship will be the President of Argentina, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, who will christen Francisco following the ship’s arrival in Argentina.

Francisco has capacity for 1,000 persons and 150 cars. A luxurious fit out has been incorporated, including a 1,100 square metre duty-free shop.

Buquebus has clearly demonstrated their preference for Incat technology over a twenty year period and Francisco (hull 069) is the eighth Incat vessel to be operated by Buquebus and their associated companies.  It will be the largest catamaran they have operated, the world’s first dual fuel high speed ferry to operate on LNG as its primary fuel, and the fastest, environmentally cleanest, most efficient, high speed ferry in the world.

Incat’s High Speed Record

The fastest previous vessel built by Incat was Juan Patricio, delivered also to Buquebus, with a top speed at 53.8 knots.  Juan Patricio was delivered in 1996 and remains in commercial service.  

Francisco is the fourth Incat built vessel with service speed over 50 knots.  

The past three consecutive winners of the Hales Trophy, the Transatlantic Blue Riband record for commercial passenger ships, were all built by Incat. The average speed over the three day (unrefueled) voyage of Incat hull 049 was 41.284 knots.

Incat has built 25 High Speed Craft over 5000 gross tonnes with a top speed in excess of 45 knots.