Feature: N. Carolina Adds Two New Ferries

Thursday, October 23, 2003

By Larry Pearson

The State of North Carolina has been very good to shipbuilding companies along the Gulf Coast. In the last 10 years, nearly a dozen ferries have been built or substantially modernized in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

In just the past two years, the second largest state ferry system in the nation has built two 180-ft. car/passenger ferries and substantially renovated two additional vessels.

The two new ferries are literally carbon copies of each other. "They were built from the same set of plans, so it is difficult to get two vessels any more similar than that," said Dan Noe, manager of quality assurance for the North Carolina Ferry Division.

You might guess a "quality assurance" manager is a person who issues directives from the comfort of an office building, but in the case of Dan Noe you would be wrong. The one constant that this reporter has noted through 17 years of covering the North Carolina ferry building program is that Dan Noe is in the shipyard almost daily when a major vessel is being built to make sure the taxpayers of the Tar Heel state are getting vessels on time and on budget.

During this program of building two ferries several hundred miles apart, Noe at times seemed to be in both shipyards at the same time. A physical impossibility to be sure, but his spirit was there if his actual presence was not from keel laying to final delivery when Mel Longo of BayFront Marine took command of the ferries on their delivery voyage.

The two ferries are each 180-ft. long by 44 ft. wide with an 11-ft. hull depth at amidships. The design draft is 5.5-ft. Both have similarities beyond their identical construction. The W. Stanford White, built at Orange Shipbuilding, Orange, Texas and the Croatoan built at Steiner Shipyard in Bayou La Batre, La. will serve the Hatteras to Ocracoke route, about a 40-minute trip one-way.

Both ferries can hold 38 cars and are certificated for 300 passengers or fewer automobiles if trucks are carried. The ferries are steel-hulled and double ended with the Main Deck having a parabolic curve for maximum vehicle carrying ability. The "island" superstructure is off the centerline.

The Main Deck of the island holds toilets, the emergency generator, engine room access, life jacket storage, the engine room emergency escape hatch and access stairs to the Second Deck.

The Main Deck section of the superstructure is actually three structures with passageways between them giving passengers access to both sides of the boat. The Second Deck is one continuous cabin with passenger seating on both sides of the compartment separated by a center aisle. The passenger seating area also has vending machine service and opens on both ends to an area with outdoor bench seating and access stairs to the vehicle deck below. The enclosed area also contains a small crew space with a limited galley and a toilet.

The Pilothouse Deck has an enclosed pilothouse area with separate control stations fore and aft as is typical with double ended ferries plus an open area for a lifeboat, five-50 person inflatable buoyant apparatus by Viking and two air conditioning condensing units serving the passenger lounge below.

The vessel is highly maneuverable even with high winds across the island structure. "This design is the most "pilot-friendly" I have ever seen," said Mel Longo, president of BayFront Marine, St. Augustine, Fla. the delivery pilot for both ferries. "Both of these vessels have outstanding handling characteristics," Longo added.

Both ferries use Voith Schneider vertical blade cyclodial propulsion units located just aft of the two "Peak" voids in the hull.

The Engine Room is amidships flanked by voids containing tanks, dry storage lockers, the MSD unit and other mechanical equipment. The engine room houses the two main engines along the centerline of the vessel, each with 56-ft. long drive shafts to reach the Voith Schneider cycloidal propulsion units at each end of the boat.

The main engines are Caterpillar 3412E, each rated at 475 hp and arranged for keel cooling by Fernstrum. Both engines are electric start by an electric motor. The engines directly couple to the Voith Schneider units via drive shafts.

The propulsion control system for the cyclodial propeller units is supplied by Mathews Marine Systems, Portland, Ore. and consists of electro/mechanical control providing full followup and non-followup actuation of each axis of the Voith Schneider units.

The main engine control system is by Marine Engine Controls and consists of three control stations. Two are located in the pilothouse, at opposite ends of the pilothouse and one at the Engineer's control station in the engine room.

A pair of Caterpillar 3304 diesels with 105 kW generators supplies ship's electrical service. The engines are configured for 24-volt start, arranged for keel cooling by Fernstrum and have installed ACE spring vibration isolators between the foundations and the generator mounting rails.

The two generators are controlled by a freestanding Industrial Power Systems main switchboard and distribution panel that controls the generators and distributes normal loads. The switchboard provides a mechanical interlock between the generators and the shore power circuit breakers.

The main deck superstructure contains a space for the emergency generator and its switchboard. A Caterpillar 3304B DIT engine powers the 65 kW generator. The switchboard provides automatic starting, automatic load transfer and automatic stopping of the emergency generator through an adjustable time delay with a range of 0-5 minutes after normal power has been restored.

This genset features an air-cooled radiator for engine water-cooling and 12 volt electric start. All five engines are fitted with Cowl Spiral Silencers, a division of Phillips & Temro, Eden Prairie, Minn. The room on the main deck containing the emergency generator has a pair of 27-in. by 30-in. louvers with an electric motor that open the louvers on emergency generator start and close when the emergency generator stops. The room is protected by a CO2 system and has a 20-gallon fuel tank to run the emergency generator engine.

The Engineer's Operating Station is an air-conditioned room in the hull with a console containing engine throttle controls, main engine tachs, air gauges, engineer's alarm panels and other equipment.

The Engineer's Alarm system has two 15-in. flush mounted racks with space for 48 active LED alarm points. Prime Mover Control, Inc., Burnaby, B.C. Canada manufactured all alarm system components. The Engineer's Operating Station is so positioned so the engineer can observe the operations of both main engines, the two ship's service generators and various pumps and other equipment through double pane safety glass.

The voids on one side of the engine room contain a 1,710-gallon fuel tank and a 2,275-gallon potable water tank along with the CO2 bottles for engine room protection plus dry storage lockers. The void on the other side of the engine room contains another 1,710-gallon fuel tank and the Red Fox Marine Sanitary Device (MSD).

The joiner system of bulkhead and ceiling liners for the passenger toilets, pilothouse and passenger lounge was manufactured by Ralph Wilson Plastics Co., Houston, Texas.

Glen Eagle Furniture, Inc., Statesville, NC, supplied the seating and tables in the passenger lounge. and all non-watertight doors are from Cornell-Carr Co., Monroe, Ct. Marhil Manufacturing Company supplied the water-tight doors.

The pilothouse is equipped with the types of navigation and communications equipment consistent with a vessel in this service. Hose-McCann Telephone Company supplied a seven-station sound powered telephone system. Hose McCann also supplied the General Alarm system with alarm bells in 12 locations throughout the ferries. Bogen supplies a Public Address system with speakers in 12 locations.

In the pilothouse are two Furuno fathometers, Two ICOM VHF marine radios, Two Furuno radar units, a Furuno GPS system and a Davis Weather monitoring system.

The North Carolina State Shipyard at Manns Harbor, N.C. has also been busy with the renovation of the ferry Pamlico. In September, this shipyard began a major renovation of the Governor Edward Hyde, according to Noe.

"The ferry will get new main engines and gensets, a new emergency genset, and a new main and emergency switchboard. In addition, the boat will have an upgrade of the alarm system, a new sewage treatment plant and a renewal of passenger areas," Noe said.

The ferry construction program for the State of North Carolina is ongoing. While not at liberty to discuss projects yet to be bid, Noe did indicate there are new ferries to be built that may be significantly different from those currently in the fleet.

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