Marking an important stage in the regeneration of the RoRo ferry route network maintained by Compania Trasmediterranea, last spring's delivery of the 28,275-gt RoPax Sorolla strengthened the state-owned firm's position in the Balearics trade.
Imbuing both a higher degree of service quality and operational flexibility in an increasingly competitive segment of the Mediterranean market, Sorolla was built at the Vigo yard of Hijos de J.Barreras. She underscored the emergence of the Galician shipbuilder as a growing force in RoRo construction. Privatized in 1998 through its sale by the erstwhile Astilleros Españoles (now encapsulated in IZAR) to a group of Spanish maritime and industrial interests, Barreras also supplied blueprints for sistership Fortuny to IZAR's Puerto Real yard.
Completed in a build time of just 16 months, the 23-knot Sorolla melds a high grade of accommodation for 1,000 passengers with a RoRo intake of up to 98 trailers plus 165 cars. The garage areas can alternatively stow 80 trailers and 336 cars, or equivalent permutations of road freight
, vans and cars.
She was assigned to the Barcelona-Palma di Mallorca connection, cutting two hours off the previous schedule. Second-of-class Fortuny was subsequently delivered from Puerto Real into the other principal link between the mainland and the islands, the Valencia/Palma route. The modest draft of 20 ft. (6.2 m) relative to a dwt of 5,000 tons reflects the owner's wish to ensure long-term operating versatility
, including accessibility to the Menorcan port of Mahon.
Sorolla is a testament to Trasmediterranea's drive to raise vessel productivity, increase revenue generation, and meet the growing expectations of freight clients and passengers alike. The grade of accommodation and range of facilities is in keeping with the owner's decision to introduce a cruise ferry standard to its mainline routes. Cabins have been provided for nearly 75-percent of the total passenger complement, distributed throughout deck 7, while the two decks immediately above include a gymnasium with sauna, swimming pool, jacuzzi, solarium, open-air bar, and a saloon disco with bar, dance floor and stage.
All vehicle handling to and from Sorolla is concentrated through two stern ramp-doors of identical dimensions and capacities, with Trasmediterranea having decided to eschew a drive-through configuration. This has resulted in a finely-faired foreship section compatible with the requirement for a relatively high, sustainable speed.
Cargo access equipment specialist MacGregor accordingly sought to ensure efficient cargo working and expeditious turnarounds in the absence of a bow door. The axial stern ramps provide an entry point across the full width of the main trailer deck, and fold in the stowed, upright position so that passenger can enjoy an unimpeded view from the public deck spaces and accommodation in the aftship area.
A fixed ramp leads down to the lower hold, with the requisite headroom and strengthening for trailers and designation for hazardous items of freight, while the upper RoRo deck and associated, hoistable car deck, is also reached via two fixed ramps at the aft end of the main garage deck. One caters for cars and the other is dimensioned for trailers. Peaks in the car-accompanied passenger traffic during the summer season are also served by the arrangement of a fixed, intermediate car deck between the after parts of the upper RoRo deck level (deck 5) and deck 7. While the contractual requirement was for a speed of 23-knots, Sorolla achieved 25.2-knots on sea trials at the machinery's 100-percent maximum continuous rating on a draft of 20-ft. (6.2-m), and 24.5-knots at 85-percent mcr. One of the most popular designs of machinery among the RoRo, ferry and passengership communities, the Finnish-manufactured Wärtsilä 46, was nominated to power Sorolla. The plant consists of four eight-cylinder models, each delivering a 7,240-kW at 500-rpm, with propulsive effect delivered by two variable pitch propellers made by Navalips through Reintjes reduction gearboxes. Shaft generators driven off the gearsets enhance overall operating efficiency.