Incat Delivers Natchan Rera!

Largest, Most Fuel Efficient Diesel Powered High Speed Catamaran in the WorldThe first of Incat’s landmark 112 metre Wave Piercing Catamarans, Natchan Rera, has been delivered to Japanese ferry giant Higashi Nihon Ferry.

Ordered in May last year, the largest vessel ever produced by Incat will operate across Japan’s Tsugaru Strait between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, approximately halving the time currently taken for voyages between Aomori and Hakodate by existing ships and greatly enhancing the convenience of regular passenger services. In service the Wave Piercer offers a crossing time of one hour and 45 minutes on the 61 nautical miles passage.

The largest catamaran ever built in Australia, the new ferry will provide greater seakeeping qualities and passenger comfort, even over the world-renowned Incat 98 metre class, on this often turbulent crossing. 

The largest, most fuel efficient diesel-powered high speed catamaran in the world, Natchan Rera (Incat Hull 064), sails at loaded speeds of approximately 40 knots and has the capacity to carry 355 cars or 450 lane metres of trucks and 193 cars. While Incat’s 112 metre design can accommodate up to 1500 persons Natchan Rera‘s luxurious accommodation has been custom designed and laid out to cater for 800 persons in unprecedented levels of style and comfort.

With the delivery of Natchan Rera Higashi Nihon Ferry is fulfilling the first part of its plan to expand the prospect of its ferry business by changing from the existing cargo-centred strategy to the creation of a hospitality business with a high added value targeted at the customer. To that end, all public spaces on board the craft have been geared towards providing passengers with a new, high quality travelling experience. The next stage of the company’s plan will see the delivery of a sister, Incat Hull 065, in mid-2008.

A New Era in Fast Ferry Comfort

For Natchan Rera‘s interior design it has been Incat’s privilege to partner with MEC Design International, a company with one of the finest records of architectural achievement in Japan.  Together MEC Design International and Incat have worked to offer an interior of ambience, sophistication and individual character which will at the same time be functional and easy to maintain.

From the outset Natchan Rera is so much more than the average vehicle-passenger fast craft. This is a craft oozing style; boasting a contemporary and attractive interior sure to impress even the most discerning traveller.

The passenger spaces on board Natchan Rera are located on two decks, Tiers 4 and 3. The latter is the main passenger deck, boasting three distinctive lounges, and is accessed from the vehicle decks, Tiers 2 and 1, by stairways forward and aft and, in a unique first for high speed catamarans, also by Kone escalators port and starboard. Additionally, a TBV marine elevator is fitted to provide barrier free access between Tiers 2, 3 and 4, ensuring passengers requiring assistance enjoy all the craft has to offer.

Passengers entering the accommodation via the escalators, or via shoreside gangways, arrive into the heart of the craft, the Entrance Lounge.  Throughout the vessel the air of luxury is enhanced through extensive use of wood effect finishes bringing elegance to the fashionable interior and here, in the Entrance Lounge, this is no more evident where partition louvers, ensuring the lounge is 30% open to the adjacent lobby space, are fabricated in aluminium with wood laminate finish.

Located around the centrepiece staircase and atrium is café style seating where up to 60 passengers can sit around tables on Beurteaux Ocean Outdoor chairs. Adding to the cosmopolitan air of this space on the port side is a circular café and bar with curved glass supported by a combination box and tube columns.  Here, for passenger entertainment, four large LCD screens are installed.

Separated by an ample galley, the café is mirrored on the starboard side by a well stocked shop which again features large expanses of curved glass, ensuring that passengers may be tempted by a wide range of gifts, magazines, books and souvenirs.

For the flooring of the busy walkways around the café and shop Amtico tiles finished in  marine florentine blues, wild cherry, and marine white maple, have been used.  An essential feature in the pleasing colour scheme here, and indeed throughout the vessel, is the Axminster carpet, made by Brintons Carpets. The dark blue carpet features splashes of red, light blues and aqua in alternating sail motifs and this lively design is used in all seating areas on Tier 3.

Complementing the carpets and continuing the contemporary theme, interiors throughout Natchan Rera are finished with lightweight yet stylish Ayrlite laminated composite panels. These panels assist in the all important reduction of vessel weight which in turn helps towards increasing speed, reducing fuel consumption, increasing range and payload, and lowering the vessel’s centre of gravity.

Aft of the Entrance Lounge are two Business Class lounges, divided by a buffet corner and male and female toilets. Each lounge seats 56 passengers in comfortable aft-facing Beurteaux Ocean Tourist reclining seats, complete with foot rests. Reds and blues are the predominant seating colours, all being finished in Macquarie wool fabric upholstery, and used to good effect against the backdrop of cracquelle (white) and wood effect panelling. Large windows face onto the aft observation deck from where passengers have a spectacular view of the spray from water jets disappearing astern of the craft.

Immediately forward of the Entrance Lounge is the Children’s Lounge, finished with a mural of the cartoon characters featured in the vessel’s eye-catching livery. Higashi Nihon Ferry has placed great emphasis upon Natchan Rera being a truly friendly family ferry and this lounge is sure to delight their younger passengers!

Just forward of the Children’s Lounge, the Economy Lounge is divided by two amenities blocks, one containing male and female passenger toilets, the other a generous crew room and also an entry point up to the next deck, Tier 4. The fully equipped crew mess has seating for crew members on comfortable bench settees and also a dining table for six. In addition to two crew locker rooms there is also two emergency rooms, each fitted with three beds.

The most striking feature of the Economy Lounge is the promenade walkway, outboard of the main seating area and leading forward along the port and starboard side, wrapping around the front of the accommodation.  Beurteaux Ocean Outdoor seats are positioned beside the windows and facing out to sea while forward, the promenade opens out with Beurteaux Ocean Freeboard bench seats facing over the bows. Here passengers are afforded impressive panoramic 300º views of the sea heading towards them at up to 40 knots through sweeping tinted windows!

Inboard of the promenade walkways Beurteaux Ocean Tourist High Back reclining seats are arranged in rows of threes and fours. Finished in blues, greens and yellows, the seating provides a tasteful contrast to the elegant tones of wood; Birk Hell, Cherry Royal and Diamond Erie. Adding that final, yet all important touch of quality to the seating areas is a combination of Luxalon aluminium and Dampa ceiling panels, neatly finished with mirrored canopies throughout.

Executive Style

Above on Tier 4 is the Executive Lounge, the main access to which is via the stunning atrium and staircase in the Entrance Lounge. The eye-catching entrance offers just a glimpse of what lies beyond the full height curved glass bulkheads with its automatic glass doors activated by sensors. Here, in the highest passenger vantage point on board, up to 36 passengers can sit back and relax in custom designed lover’s seats, fitted with a central rotating table complete with integrated LCD TV screen shared between each pair.

There are also a number of Beurteaux Sofa custom designed lounge chairs and for those who might wish to take a nap on the short crossing then one of the 58 Ocean Executive reclining seats, complete with calf rest, LCD TV and reading light, is sure to be inviting. The lounge has a dedicated bar, tastefully finished with wood panelling and glass counter top.

Like the Economy Lounge below this area is divided by two amenities blocks, containing male and female toilets and showers, and the split wheelhouse with electronics housed in the lower level.

The wheelhouse onboard Natchan Rera provides 360-degree visibility for the officers over the top of the aerodynamic superstructure, while an aft-facing docking console and CCTV monitors negate the need for bridge wings with their associated windage and weight. However, berthing stations have been provided for the customer, below on Tier 3.  Consistent with all Incat vessels, the bridge is fitted with the latest in electronic, navigation and communication equipment to comply with the High Speed Craft Code. There are three forward facing adjustable seats around the centre line, the Captain sitting in the centre, with the First Officer to starboard and the Chief Engineer to port.

Throughout the vessel colour LCD flat screens enables seated passengers to view safety messages, DVD/video programs, and input from the electronic chart system.

Vehicle Decks and Livery

One cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer size of the main vehicle deck on Tier 1 which, unlike earlier vessels, is completely devoid of mezzanine decks. Incat’s first ‘double deck’ vehicle carrier, an internal ramp leads above to a dedicated full length car deck on Tier 2, leaving the main deck free for high sided vehicles with a load of 12 tonnes per axle.  

There is space for 450 metres of freight at 3.1m wide and 4.35m clear height plus 193 cars at 4.5m length x 2.3m wide. If the vessel was to be filled entirely with cars then up to 355 vehicles may be shipped.

Hobart-based company Colbeck & Gunton supplied the lightweight structural fire protection system aboard Natchan Rera including fire doors and dampers. To protect all moderate and high risk spaces the ‘Rapid Access’ (deckhead) and ‘Lightweight’ (bulkhead) fire protection system meets all the demands for lighter weight and faster installation/removal for this type of craft. An addressable fire detection system, CCTV cameras, zoned fire sprinkler systems and hydrants protect vehicle decks and also of course the passenger areas and engine rooms.

Externally, the craft is beautifully adorned with a livery adapted from paintings made by Natsumi Kawashima, a seven year-old Japanese girl whose grandfather Mr Mutsuo Kawashima is a Japanese-style painter who served as a councillor of the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition and whose father, Mr Wataru Kawashima, is also a Japanese-style painter and is a lecturer at Kyoto City University of Arts. The illustrations depict Natsumi and her friends travelling happily with marine creatures while imagining “The bonding between sea, nature and people”.

In Japan, the name Natsumi is often shortened to Natchan, while Rera is from Hokkaido’s Ainu language and means wind. Together with the colourful livery it is hoped the friendly name will overturn traditional images of conventional ferries with thoughts of comfortable and delightful sea journeys. 

The colourful artwork is applied using Avery Dennison MPI 1800 Cast high gloss vinyl film. This is a premium quality, conformable, opaque vinyl film designed for use in demanding environments where permanent long-term adhesion and premium print performance are required.

Technical Review

The environmentally progressive Natchan Rera is powered by four MAN 20V 28/33D diesel engines, each rated 9000 kW at 1000 rpm and delivering a low weight when compared to other engines in its class. The advantages of engine durability, efficiency, low noise and low maintenance costs make it the engine of choice for Incat vessels, not least of all impressive fuel consumption, burning less kg per cargo tonne per hour than any other high speed catamaran.

The latest combustion chamber technology with electronically controlled pump pipe injection system and optimised cylinder pressures, reduces specific fuel consumption to <190g/kWh. At almost a 7% reduction per kWh over the previous generation of medium speed diesel engines this represents a massive saving on annual fuel bills. The vessel is also environmentally compliant with low NOx of <10g/kWh.

The ferry is fitted with four of the largest transmissions from ZF Marine GmbH, the ZF 60000 NR2H, each with maximum rated power of 12387kW.  Special technical solutions were required to satisfy the engine room layout and the demand for the highest reliability. The transmission had to be matched to the interface provided and the ZF solution was an excellent compromise with low weight and small dimensions.

Engine power is converted to propulsion thrust through a new design of waterjet from Wärtsilä. The new LJX waterjet offers, in comparison with other waterjets available today, a 25% reduction in mounting flange diameter, a 10% overall weight reduction and a 35% increase in cavitation margin. It comes with a 1500 mm diameter impeller and an inboard layout for steering and reversing hydraulics.

A substantial weight saving has been achieved through the use of Centa carbon-fibre shafts.  Some 70% of weight has been saved compared to that in the use of conventional steel shafts.

Securing reliable and economical power generation on board are four MAN D2876 LE301/HCM 534C 360kW alternators.

Speed, Seakeeping and Safety

Sea trials for Natchan Rera were completed in an impressive three days with all systems performing perfectly and meeting best expectations.  During the course of trials while running at 100% MCR (maximum continuous rating) speeds of up to 45.4 knots were averaged with 250 tonnes deadweight on board. Loaded with 600 tonnes deadweight an average speed of 41.9 knots was achieved at 100% MCR, almost 3 knots above contract requirement.

In terms of seakeeping the 112 metre offers significant improvements over the already excellent 98 metre class thanks to increased hull separation, increased vessel length and mass together with an increase in tunnel height and refined arch form.

Enhancing the 112 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran’s already excellent sea keeping qualities is the Maritime Dynamics/Incat Ride Control System, consisting of transom mounted trim tabs and a retractable T-foil.  These, combined with Incat’s unique hull form featuring long outer bows, fuller midship sections, stern skeglets and centre bow clearances, means Motion Sickness Incidence has been reduced in higher sea states by reducing pitch, roll and heave, the major contributors to passenger discomfort.

As always, safety is paramount and Natchan Rera is equipped with four Liferaft Systems Australia Marine Evacuation Stations, two port and two starboard. The two forward MES serves a total 200 persons each.  The two aft MES serve up to a total of 200 persons each. A total of nine 100-person rafts are fitted. Two SOLAS Narwhal inflatable rescue boats, each with 25hp motors, are provided for launch and recovery operations.

In Service

Entering service between Hakodate and Aomori, Natchan Rera joins a Higashi Nihon Ferry fleet of nine ships operating routes between Hakodate and Aomori, Muroran and Aomori and Hakodate and Ooma.

The company can trace its roots back to 1965, however it was in 2004 that Libera Co. Ltd., a company specialising in global shipping activities, was nominated as a support enterprise of Higashi Nihon Ferry. In 2006 Libera bought the company outright and a new Higashi Nihon Ferry was born.

Natchan Rera, Hull 064, Principal Particulars

Design  Two slender, aluminium hulls connected by a bridging section with centre bow structure at fwd end. Each hull is divided into nine vented, watertight compartments divided by transverse bulkheads. Two compartments in each hull prepared as short range fuel tanks and one as a long-range fuel tank.
Designer Revolution Design Pty Ltd
Builder Incat Tasmania Pty Ltd
Class Society Det Norske Veritas
Certification DNV   +1A1 HSLC R1 Car Ferry “B” EO
Length overall 112.60m
Length waterline 105.60 m
Beam of Hulls 5.80 m
Beam (moulded) 30.50m
Draft approximately 3.93m
Speed 40 knots
Tonnage 10,841 tonnes gross
6,264 tonnes net
Up to 1,380 tonnes deadweight
Total persons 800 persons
Vehicle Deck 450 truck-lane metres plus 193 cars or a total of 355 cars


Passengers 800 persons (including crew)
Vehicles 450 truck lane metres at 3.1m wide and 4.35m clear height plus 193 cars at 4.5m length x 2.3m wide or 355 cars only.
Axle loads Tier 1 – 12 tonnes per axle
Tier 2 – up to 9 tonne per axle
Tankage Fuel Oil – 900,000 litres
Fresh Water – 10,000 litres
Sewage – 5,000 litre
Lube Oil – 2 x 1000 litres
ER Oily Water – 4 x 150 litres
Genset Fuel Oil – 2 x 1238 litres
Evacuation Escape is via four Marine Evacuation Stations, two port and two starboard. The two forward MES serve a total of 200 persons each and the two aft MES can serve up to a total a total of 300 persons each. A total of nine 100-person rafts are fitted.
2 x SOLAS inflatable dinghy with 30 hp motor and approved launch / recovery method.

Machinery Installations

Main Engines 4 x resiliently mounted MAN 28/33D marine diesel engines, each rated at 9000 kW
Fuel Consumption SFC of <190g/kWh
Emmisions <10g/kWh
Water Jets 4 x Wartsila LJX 1500 waterjets configured for steering and reverse.
Transmission 4 x ZF60000 NR2H gearboxes, approved by the engine manufacturer, with reduction ratio suited for optimum jet shaft speed.
Ride Control A ‘Maritime Dynamics’ active ride control system is fitted to maximise passenger comfort. This system combines active trim tabs aft and fold-down T-foil located at aft end of centre bow fitted with active fins.

Electrical Installations

Alternators 4 x MAN D 2876 LE 301/HCM 534 C 360kW (nominal) marine, brushless, self-excited alternators.
Distribution 415V, 60 Hz. 3 phase. 4 wire distribution with neutral earth allowing 240 volt supply using one phase and one neutral. Distribution via distribution boards adjacent to or within the space they serve