VESSEL REVIEW | Coolgaree Cat – Efficient, durable catamaran ferry for Sealink’s Townsville-Palm Island route

VESSEL REVIEW | Coolgaree Cat – Efficient, durable catamaran ferry for Sealink’s Townsville-Palm Island route

After Australian tourism and transport company Sealink Travel Group decided that it needed a new vessel capable of carrying 320 passengers plus freight along the 35-nautical-mile stretch between Townsville and Palm Island in Queensland, it selected naval architecture firm Incat Crowther and a local builder to provide the solution. The result is Coolgaree Cat, a new catamaran ferry boasting improved performance, greater comfort, lower maintenance requirements, and more sustainable operations compared to the vessel it had been designed to replace.

The 32- by 10-metre newbuild has a main deck with 206 passenger seats in a mix of booth and forward-facing types as well as a large aft kiosk and multiple storage areas. The upper deck could seat 86 passengers in a mix of lounges and regular seats plus another 26 passengers on exterior seats on the upper aft deck. The cabin interior features large format windows and light interior colours to provide a feeling of space and openness.

Boarding is via stern side gates or a port side midship boarding door.

The bulk of the upper aft deck is dedicated to containerised freight stowage, with space for 12 luggage trolleys and a cool room for a further three trolleys. This cold room was incorporated in response to commuters' and businesses' need for a vessel capable of cold freight service to and from the mainland.

The aft end coamings of this deck have been reinforced to cope with the impact of trolleys whilst loading gates are specifically located to work with existing port infrastructure, thereby doing away with the need to install tailor-fit pier facilities.

"As the main form of passenger transport between Palm Island and mainland Queensland, the vessel needed to provide an interior cabin space reflective of the community's needs," Sealink explained to Baird Maritime. "The cabin design and layout incorporate lounge and tabled seating conducive to travelling in family groups as well as wide aisles to accommodate the carriage of shopping and supplies purchased on the mainland."

In addition to being able to accommodate passengers' need for luggage space, the overall design had placed great emphasis on ensuring comfort. Features that helped achieve this goal include a Humphree active ride control system and a water-chilled air-conditioning system with built-in redundancy to allow passengers to sail in relative comfort even amidst the extreme temperatures and humidity typical in northern Australia.

The air-conditioning system in the passenger cabin spaces may even be set and controlled via touchscreen.

The vessel features high-visibility livery that had derived a number of design elements from an original artwork by Palm Island resident and indigenous artist Susan Pryor. Susan also assisted a team led by designer Mark Pryor in incorporating those same elements to the exterior to make sure these blended seamlessly with SeaLink's corporate colours.

Coolgaree Cat is powered by two Caterpillar C32 main engines that deliver 970 kW each at 2,100 rpm. The engines are connected to Twin Disc gearboxes that drive a pair of fixed-pitch propellers to deliver speeds in excess of 30 knots. However, Sealink will operate the ferry at a fuel-efficient fully loaded service speed of 24 knots at only 60 per cent MCR to maximise the time between the overhauls of the main engines.

Sealink explained that even the engine installation had been done in such a way that maintenance costs would be kept as low as possible.

"The main engines are positioned so that bottom-end maintenance tasks can be performed in situ, which would reduce future maintenance costs. Further, the frames sizing alongside the engines have been reduced in order to maximise the available room around the engines, thus improving accessibility and safety for the crew."

The engines have also been fitted with a real-time data exporting package that would allow the crew to monitor data related to engine performance, vessel positioning, and other key parameters. Also installed on board is an HD CCTV camera setup that comes with remote real-time monitoring and playback features.

The three-phase AC steering system has a high-flow DC emergency pump for redundancy purposes. Sealink claims this pump could seamlessly cut in if there is a failure of the primary AC system, thus making it an invaluable safety measure when navigating within the narrow access channel at Palm Island.

The bridge layout had been designed with functionality and ease of access in mind. The bridge equipment suite includes Simrad navigation aids, a colour touchscreen that provides access to and control of critical onboard systems.

"Careful consideration into the functionality and displays have meant they are easy to operate and support the operation of the vessel and its emergency systems," Sealink explained.

Coolgaree Cat
Type of vessel:Passenger ferry
Classification:NSCV 1C/1D
Owner:Sealink Travel Group, Australia
Operator:Sealink Travel Group, Australia
Designer:Incat Crowther, Australia
Hull construction material:Aluminium
Length overall:32 metres
Length waterline:31.5 metres
Beam:10 metres
Draught:1.2 metres
Depth:3.0 metres
Main engines:2 x Caterpillar C32, each 970 kW at 2,100 rpm
Gearboxes:2 x Twin Disc
Propulsion:2 x fixed-pitch propellers
Generators:Three-phase AC system with DC emergency pump
Maximum speed:30 knots
Cruising speed:26 knots
Electronics supplied by:Ultimate Marine Power
Other electronics:Engine data exporting package; M2i bridge touchscreens
Other equipment installed:Stern side gates; port side midship boarding door; Humphree active ride control system
Seating:Lounge seats; booths; forward-facing seats
Interior fitout/furnishings:Kiosk; trolley storage areas; Freezetec air-conditioning system
Type of fuel:Diesel
Fuel capacity:5,000 litres
Freshwater capacity:2,000 litres
Sewage/blackwater capacity:3,000 litres

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