Marine link

Gas turbines power up European ferries

The busy Hong Kong to Macau route is benefiting from a combination of European fast ferry expertise and U.S. gas turbine technology. Rivalry between operators is intense as they strive to meet the high speed and quiet ride demands of customers who not only enjoy a choice but have learned to be discerning when it comes to fast ferries.

The latest vessels to enter service include three Caterpillar Solar Turbine-powered FBM TriCats and two Kvaerner Fjellstrand Foilcats, which incorporate a pair of 4,400-kW LM 50 gas turbines manufactured by Kvaerner Energy's Agotnes facility on Norway's west coast under license from GE.

The Foilcat has been a long time in development; the original prototype did not perform as well as expected but the might of Kvaerner enabled a long hard examination of both theory and practice to be taken.

Redesigned foils and significant investment has paid off remarkably, with the first two 115-ft. (35-m) production versions, Penha and Barca, achieving a service speed of 45 knots. With a capacity of 407 passengers, these vessels will put owners Far East Hydrofoil in a highly competitive position against CTSParkview's 148-ft. (45-m) TriCats, which can only carry 318 passengers. It must be noted, however that two more TriCats are on their way out to Hong Kong and five more are on order. The GE/Kvaerner Energy association goes back to 1957, initially involving steam turbines for ship propulsion followed by gas turbine power packs for the offshore industry. The heavy involvement of European builders in the fast ferry market has, according to Odd Sandoy, vice president of Kvaerner's propulsion machinery division, seen the gas turbine establish itself. Other orders include two 233-ft. (71-m) Seajet passenger/car ferries ordered from Mols-Linien from Danyard.

Two Kvaerner/GE LM 1600 turbines developing a total of 24,000 kW in specially integrated modules provide these 450-passenger, 120-car carriers with a full load service speed of 40.8 knots and a fuel consumption of 5.5 tons per hour. Probably of greater significance is the four turbine system being provided on the 407- ft (124-m) Stena Sealink HSS (High-speed Sea Service) catamaran vessels being built at Finnyards. Kvaerner Energy has been responsible for the overall propulsion system design of these vessels with the brief to convey 1,500 passengers plus 375 cars at 42 knots. To achieve this each of the catamaran hulls will contain a GE-LM 1600 and a GM-LM 2500 unit providing a total vessel output of around 60,000 kW. The first of these vessels is currently on trials and according to Finnyards' project manager the performance is exceeding expectations. Shipbuilders generally approve of gas turbines; they are normally supplied as a self-contained package which includes all the ancillary equipment. For example, the HSS systems each comprised a module assembled at the Kvaerner factory incorporating turbine, combustion air intake, cooling air intake, exhaust gas exit, flexible coupling shaft for connection to the waterjet, exhaust collector and base frame.

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