Galicia being put through her paces off the Chinese coast.(credit: Brittany Ferries). Galicia being put through her paces off the Chinese coast.(credit: Brittany Ferries).

Brittany Ferries is set to introduce the first of three ro-pax newbuilds of Stena’s E-Flexer type to the UK/Spain traffic, writes David Tinsley.

Now being readied for delivery from China to Europe, the 40,500gt Galicia signals the start of the French company’s major investment in routes linking southern England with northern Spain. The commitments to long-term charters from contractual owner Stena RoRo of Gothenburg have been made against the backcloth of solid development over recent years in both the car-accompanied passenger and freight sectors, and prospective further growth.

The three newbuilds form part of the nine-ship E-Flexer programme assigned by Stena RoRo to China Merchants Jingling Shipbuilding at Weihai, formerly AVIC Weihai. Bareboat agreements have been concluded by Brittany Ferries on each vessel, entailing a 10-year term in the case of Galicia, which will be deployed under the French flag with a French crew throughout.

The 215-metre Galicia has been fitted out for 1,015 passengers and a complement of 85, and provides ro-ro garaging equating to 3,100 lane-metres on three fixed decks, plus a dedicated car deck taking an additional 120 vehicles. Two of the decks give a 5.2m headroom to ensure a substantial freight payload, up to a maximum 155 trucks, and the drive-through configuration and twin-level access and egress makes for expeditious handling.

While the impending delivery is equipped with a closed-loop scrubber to strip sulphur oxides and particulate matter from the engine exhaust, and has been certificated by classification society DNV GL as gas-ready, the two subsequent newbuilds fixed by Brittany Ferries, to be named Salamanca and Santona, have been specified with LNG dual-fuel machinery.

The installation in Galicia is based on two MaK M43C diesels in 12-cylinder vee-form layout, each producing 12,600kW at maximum output, to give a speed of 22 knots delivered through twin controllable pitch propellers, providing the power and reserve to ensure year-round scheduling dependability. The western Channel and Bay of Biscay, across which the new ship will voyage, can be extremely demanding environments, especially during the winter period.

DNV GL’s Gas Ready notation defines a level of preparedness for operation on or conversion to LNG fuel, and affords guidance as to the measures needed to achieve the transition. Upgrading of the M43C plant to run on LNG will require upgrading to MaK’s slightly wider bore M46DF dual-fuel specification, which achieves IMO Tier III compliance in gas mode, while delivering a slightly lower power at the same running speed.

Efficiency and flexibility is engendered by a pair of WE Tech 2,600kW permanent-magnet shaft generators with variable-frequency drives.

Compared to other E-Flexers for deployment by Stena Line and DFDS, the ships fixed by Brittany Ferries are destined to ply longer overnight routes, requiring more cabin accommodation for passengers and freight drivers. The 343 passenger cabins in Galicia is approximately double that of the other ferries in the initial tranche of E-Flexers ordered by Stena RoRo.

Galicia has been allocated to the service connecting Portsmouth and Santander, under a schedule entailing two round-trips per week. The ship will also boost capacity and capability on the company’s UK/France network, by making one round-trip every week between Portsmouth and Cherbourg.

Brittany Ferries reported last week that the ship had undergone sea trials and would shortly embark on the 10,000-mile voyage to North Europe. On arrival, she will undergo a period of crew familiarisation and final drydocking. The company said the vessel would be “welcoming first passengers onboard as early as mid-December 2020”, although the published timetables currently show the vessel beginning regular service on her assigned routes in March 2021.

The initial two E-Flexers, Stena Estrid and Stena Edda, have been phased into the Irish Sea traffic this year with Stena Line, on the Holyhead/Dublin and Belfast/Liverpool routes, respectively. After third-of-class Galicia, the fourth vessel is expected to start on Stena Line’s Belfast/Liverpool run in early 2021 as the Stena Embla.

The fifth in the series, Cote d’Opale, is fixed to DFDS on a 10-year charter for Strait of Dover service, to be followed in 2022 by the second ship chartered by Brittany Ferries, the Salamanca, the first of its two LNG dual-fuel variants. The seventh and eighth E-Flexer newbuilds from China will be elongated versions of the design, giving a load capacity of 3,600 line metres on a 240-metre hull length, and will be operated by Stena Line. The ninth newbuild is the second of the pair nominated with dual-fuel propulsion for Brittany Ferries UK/Spain traffic, and is expected in 2023.

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