Big Cat Takes Charge – Incat 98m is English Channel’s Largest High Speed Vessel

A new era in English Channel high speed ferry operations has arrived in the shape of Normandie Express, the Incat 98 metre Evolution 10B Wave Piercing Catamaran now in service with Brittany Ferries.

Normandie Express is not only the largest fast craft in the French operator’s fleet but is also the largest of its type on the English Channel, boasting capacity for up to 900 persons and 267 cars.

Making her debut at Portsmouth on March 16 the vessel provides crossing times of only three hours to Cherbourg and three hours 45 minutes to Caen. Until mid-November there are up to two return trips a day to Cherbourg and a service to Caen operating on weekends, supplementing the existing three return crossings a day by conventional cruise-ferry.

Brittany Ferries is the leading ferry operator on the western English Channel and operates one of the most modern fleets in Europe with eight ships, including the Incat 86 metre vessel Normandie Vitesse, and over 2,500 employees. It accounts for over 50% of the traffic on the Western Channel, carrying in excess of 2.6 million passengers, 780,000 cars and 170,000 trucks a year.

Brittany Ferries Managing Director Mr David Longden comments, “The new high-speed crossings from Portsmouth complement our existing 135 minute express service from Poole to Cherbourg to give customers even more choice on how they cross the channel.

“We recognise that some wish to get to their destination as quickly as possible, whereas others seek the relaxation and a good French meal that can be enjoyed on a more leisurely crossing, either by day or overnight on our luxury cruise-ferry services. The important thing for us is to provide the market with the widest possible choice,” he said.

Incat Chairman Mr Robert Clifford said the deployment of the first Evolution 10B vessel in UK waters rewarded the marketing commitment Incat has dedicated to the 98 metre design. “We have been promoting the vast improvements the 98 metre vessels brings to all aspects of high speed operations over the many early generation fast craft to be found in UK waters and have always believed the English Channel in particular offered significant potential for new generation Incat ferries,” he said.

During its delivery voyage from Hobart to Roscoff Normandie Express detoured to Indonesia with aid for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster. A joint effort by Brittany Ferries, Incat, the Tasmanian Government and AusAid, with donations coming from the people of Tasmania, the vessel delivered 80 pallets of bottled drinking water, 320 large (including multi-roomed) tents accommodating up to 2500 people, several donated 4WD vehicles including a fire truck, 40 sewage treatment systems to cater for many thousands of people, medical supplies, bedding items, baby food and other non-perishable food items. The Australian Government through AusAid coordinated the offload in Jakarta and the entire shipment was delivered directly into Banda Aceh to assist with the relief efforts.

Also on board the vessel for delivery to France was the yacht Sill et Voilia which in December last year was forced to retire into Hobart from the Vendee Globe solo round the world race after suffering keel damage. Solo sailor Roland Jourdain was third in the race when forced to withdraw and although still disappointed at not completing the competition said “I am most grateful to Incat and Brittany Ferries for arranging this rescue of a sailor in distress by returning my damaged yacht to France”.

A Ship to Meet all Needs

Entering the main cabin onboard Normandie Express the passenger is instantly greeted by an interior displaying all the characteristics of Incat’s high quality fitout for which the company has become world renowned.

Designed to accommodate up to 900 persons, the passenger areas are located on one deck, with three lounge areas along its length each featuring its own distinctive style of seating, colour scheme and facilities.

Passengers travelling without cars enter the ship through large side entry doors into the central midships lounge, the focal point for many onboard activities being surrounded by the shop, café and seating areas. The most striking feature of the midships lounge is the mirrored panel ceilings punctuated by port and starboard ceiling skylights with fluorescent lighting around their base. Here passengers sit in comfortable tub-style seating arranged in clusters around circular tables, or in recliner-style lounge seating separated from the central square by planter boxes and walkway.

The shop, with large expanses of glass, sail motif flooring and decorative ceilings, is arranged to provide a wide range of items such as souvenirs, newspapers, books and magazines. Directly opposite is the café, offering passengers a broad range of refreshments and food, features woodgrain panelling and tiled flooring, adding to the elegance of this central lounge.

Popular on all 98 metre Incat vessels, of which five have now been built, the forward lounge and bar on Normandie Express features panoramic views of the horizon through unrestricted tinted windows. Outboard of the bar raised seating areas enable passengers to relax in recliner style seating affording every comfort for those who just want to sit back and let the journey slip by.

Immediately aft of the forward lounge and outboard of the central crew accommodation and passenger toilet block is the Club Class Lounge to starboard and children’s play area to port. Both areas are surrounded by Incat’s innovative floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows and textured glass bulkheads. The latter are notable in having moulded into the glass panels the same sail and fish pattern as the colourful carpet.

Passengers travelling with cars enter Normandie Express from the vehicle deck via port and starboard internal stairs featuring overhead skylight windows and tiled motif flooring or by the external aft stairs into the aft lounge. This spacious area contains a mix of tub style seats with tables and recliner style seats surrounding a bar which provides facilities to serve a wide variety of food and beverages. Forward of the bar is the main amenity block containing male and female toilets, unisex disability toilet/baby change room and a crew area. Large windows facing onto the aft observation deck continues the vista of wide ocean views throughout the vessel allowing passengers a spectacular view of the waterjets in operation.

By extending the lower floor level from the aft passenger lounge right through the vessel to the forward lounge’s disability access ramp from the forward vehicle decks Normandie Express is truly “disability access friendly” and ensures all passengers have equal access to and from the vessel. Car passengers unable to climb the aft stairways may park adjacent to the forward vehicle deck access door, away from the general movement of cars on the main vehicle deck and move in safety to the passenger cabin.

The vessel’s vehicle decks offer a total of 380 truck lane metres at 3.1m wide x 4.3m clear height and 360 car lane metres at 2.3m wide x 2.1m high. Suitable for heavy road transport vehicles the main vehicle deck also benefits from unrestricted height for 6 metres and an unobstructed width of 18 metres at the stern. The fitting of nine portable mezzanine vehicle decks gives the operator the flexibility to carry 267 cars and no heavy vehicles, or 12 road freight trailers with 180 cars, or 24 road freight trailers with 85 cars while offering the headroom demanded by oversize freight vehicles when raised. The vehicle decks, with clear lane markings painted on the deck, ensure fast vehicle loading and unloading with the flexibility to alter the configuration on a voyage to voyage basis.

Normandie Express is powered by four MAN B&W 20RK270 medium speed diesels developing in excess of 28,000 kW. The engines drive transom-mounted steerable Wartsila LIPS LJ120E waterjets via Reintjes VLJ6831 gearboxes. All four waterjets are configured for steering and reversing, while an independent hydraulic system in each hull covers the steering and reverse functions.

Unlike other Incat vessels operating in UK waters Normandie Express is fitted with a main engine dry exhaust system. The system propels engine exhaust away from the vessel via twin funnels on top of the aft superstructure instead of into the tunnel between the vessel’s hulls. Developed in cooperation with Incat’s main engine suppliers the objective of the dry exhaust system was to meet new international noise and emission standards.

Most noticeable to passengers who have travelled on the UK’s early generation Incat vessels will be the significant improvement in seakeeping qualities the 98 metre design brings to ferry travellers.

The Maritime Dynamics/Incat Ride Control System consisting of transom mounted trim tabs and a retractable bow T-foil, combined with a hull form featuring longer outer bows, fuller midship sections, stern skeglets and improved centrebow clearances, means Motion Sickness Incidence has been reduced by up to 40% in higher sea states by reducing pitch, roll and heave, the major contributors to passenger discomfort.

Located at the aft end of the centre bow the retractable T-foil was developed jointly by Incat and Maritime Dynamics Inc. It retracts out of the water and behind the centre bow when not in use. When lowered it performs the same functions as the earlier “bolt-on” T-foils mounted under the forward end of the outer bows of earlier vessels. When the sea conditions are calm, the foil is retracted increasing vessel speed and reducing the possibility of damage by submerged objects. In the event of an object strike while the foil is in use, it will retract immediately. All mechanical and hydraulic components are above the water allowing servicing to take place while the vessel is afloat. Simplified installation and
servicing procedures, reduced maintenance and the elimination of the need for replacement all result in a reduction in operational costs over the life of a vessel.

Normandie Express is fitted with six evacuation stations; two on each side of the vessel each containing an IMO approved Liferaft Systems Australia MES (Marine Evacuation System), with an additional liferaft access station on each aft mooring deck. An MES consists of an inflatable slide, which connects with multiple 100-person liferafts. The evacuation arrangement has proved capable of evacuating the full vessel’s complement in times much faster than the IMO requirements. In additional the vessel is designed and built with high levels of reserve buoyancy, fire detection/protection and safety systems redundancy.

The arrival of Normandie Express brings the number of Incat-built vessels operating to and from ports in England, Scotland and Wales to France, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2005 to twelve. As the largest Incat vessel in a range which includes 74, 81 and 86 metre Incat vessels Normandie Express is set to illustrate to Northern European observers just how far the high speed ferry industry has developed in the past decade.

Builder Incat Tasmania Pty Ltd
Certification DNV +1A1 HSLC R1 Car Ferry “B” EO Certificate
Length Overall 97.22 m
Length Waterline 92.00 m
Beam Overall 26.62 m
Draught (max) 3.40 m
Hull Beam 4.50 m
Deadweight 750 tonnes
(100%mcr) Approximately 48 knots @ lightship
Approximately 42 knots @ 375 tonnes deadweight
Total Persons up to 900 people
Vehicle Deck Capacity 380 truck lane metres at 3.1m wide x 4.3 clear height
Car Capacity plus 80 cars at 4.5m length x 2.3m wide
Full Car Capacity 267 cars (no trucks)
Axle Loads Transom to Frame 49 — 10 tonnes per single axle
Fwd of frame 49, ramp A to D and Mezzanine Decks – 0.8 tonnes per axle
Fuel Capacity 4 x 40m3 integral aluminium tank and additional long-range tank of minimum 170m3 capacity provided in each hull
Fresh Water 1 x 5.0 m3 GRP tank
Sewage 1 x 5.0 m3 GRP tank
Main Engines
4 x MAN B&W 20RK270 diesels of 7080kW @ 1030rpm
Gearboxes 4 x Reintjes VLJ6831
Water Jets 4 x Lips LJ120E
Alternators 4 x Caterpillar 3406B 230 kW alternators
Distribution 415V, 50 Hz. 3 phase 4 wire distribution with neutral earth allowing 240 volt supply using one phase and one neutral
Escape 4 x Marine Evacuation Stations and 2 x external aft stairs. Total of 10 x 100 person rafts fitted 2 x SOLAS inflatable dinghy with 30 hp motor and approved launch / recovery method
Fire Detection Addressable fire detection system covering all high and moderate risk spaces (other than the wheelhouse) with alarm panel situated in the wheelhouse with CCTV cameras
Fire Protection Lightweight Colbeck & Gunton Structural Fire Protection protects all moderate and high risk spaces