VESSEL REVIEW | Azerbaijan – First in series of new Russian-designed Caspian Sea rail ferries

VESSEL REVIEW | Azerbaijan – First in series of new Russian-designed Caspian Sea rail ferries

Best Rail Ro-Pax – Azerbaijan (Photo: MEB)

Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company (ASCO) recently took delivery of the first vessel in a new series of two locally-built Ro-Pax ferries that are also capable of transporting railroad cars.

The all-steel Azerbaijan was built for ASCO by Baku Shipyard (BSY) to a design developed by Russia’s Marine Engineering Bureau (MEB) in compliance to Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (KM) class rules.

“The vessel and its sister, which is under construction, will be among the largest train-car-passenger ferries in operation in the Caspian Sea region,” MEB told Baird Maritime. “Also, these will be the first two Caspian Sea ferries that are purpose-built to transport passengers, road vehicles, railroad cars, and dangerous goods simultaneously. All other vessels in this region that can also transport dangerous goods are either rail ferries with no space for passengers or passenger ships with no provisions for trains.”

The designer added that the ferry and its sister were developed in fulfilment of ACSC’s requirement for the largest possible vessels capable of operating between the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and the cities of Aktau in Kazakhstan and Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan. Besides transporting passengers, rail freight, and dangerous goods such as oil and oil products, the new ferries were also intended to accommodate other types of cargo including food, agricultural products, and construction materials.

Lastly, the acquisition of the vessels is meant to modernise Azerbaijan’s fleet of oceangoing ferries, many of which are already over 20 years old.

Azerbaijan has an LOA of 154.5 metres, a beam of 17.5 metres, a draught of 4.5 metres, and a displacement of 10,438 tonnes at full load. The is onboard space for up to 100 passengers and 30 crew members.

As regards freight, the vessel can transport a maximum of 56 railway wagons with track widths of 1,520 mm each as well as 50 lorries with trailers. All freight is located on the aft below deck with loading and unloading performed using a side ramp door while the dangerous cargo will be placed on the vessel’s open upper deck to facilitate accelerated loading and unloading in compliance to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and Azerbaijan’s national Maritime Dangerous Goods Transportation Regulation.

Early on in the vessel’s development, the builder and the designer realised that an open upper deck was necessary not simply because of regulatory requirements, but also because of an incident that occurred in recent memory.

“In 2002,” commented MEB, “Mercury II, a ferry with a closed deck, capsized and sank in bad weather in these waters, partly due to the placement of rail wagons and oil cargo on the same deck. One person died in that tragedy.”

The hold where the wagons will be placed has a height of 5.4 metres whereas other existing rail ferries in the Caspian region have hold heights of only five metres. Also, access between the cargo decks is via a lift with a length of 25 metres and capacity for 188 tonnes. Loading of passengers and cargo is to be done simultaneously in compliance to regulations covering transport of dangerous goods.

A helicopter deck has also been fitted to allow at-sea limited personnel transfers.

The overall longitudinal strength of the hull also allows two wagons to be loaded or unloaded simultaneously, significantly reducing the time needed for cargo operations.

MEB added that, even with the vessel’s dimensions, considerable effort was exerted to ensure its suitability for sailing conditions in the Caspian Sea.

“CFD modelling was executed to optimise hull form. The ferry therefore has a bulbous fore end and transom aft end as well as excess freeboard. Meanwhile, finite element method (FEM) analysis was widely used in the design of the cargo spaces.”

Power is provided by two 2,600kW main engines driving fixed-pitch propellers to deliver a maximum speed of 16 knots and a range of 2,500 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 14 knots. Auxiliary engines have been fitted as well.

“The arrangement of the main and auxiliary engines was done symmetrically,” MEB told Baird Maritime. “In case of fire and/or flooding, the incident can be contained in one side of the ship, allowing all the propulsion machinery in the opposite compartment to remain operable. Sufficient propulsion power is therefore available to enable the vessel to head to the nearest port unassisted.”

The designer added that sea trials have validated the design approaches that were taken, and this has inspired the project team to consider offering this ferry series to international customers as well.

To help streamline monitoring and control of the vessel’s comprehensive electronics suite, an integrated automation system (IAS) is installed.

“The system covers both hardware and software in order to reduce the overall need for servicing and spare parts. The system is based on modern technology for both hardware and software and will be supported by the supplier throughout the vessel’s service life.”

The ferry also has what MEB has called a safety centre. This part of the ship will be not be manned during regular sailings but will serve as a backup control area for the bridge in the event of emergencies, hence the incorporation of secondary steering controls and associated electronics. There is also internal communication between this centre and the bridge, the engineering spaces, firefighting and damage control, and all other areas of the vessel that require manual control to sustain operation of essential systems.

Onboard amenities for passengers include a duty-free shop, an internet cafe, a game saloon with bar, a 50-seat restaurant, and a smoking room. There are also fully equipped medical facilities including an onboard hospital, patients’ rooms, a physician’s office with outpatient clinic, and an isolation ward.

Click here for the other news, features and reviews comprising this month’s Passenger Vessel Week.

Type of vessel:Ro-Pax ferry
Classification:KM R2 AUT1-ICS OMBO ECO HELIDECK Ro-ro passenger ship
Owner:Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company (ASCO)
Operator:Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company (ASCO)
Designer:Marine Engineering Bureau, Russia
CAD software:Autocad; Rhinoceros
Builder:Baku Shipyard (BSY), Azerbaijan
Hull construction material:Steel
Superstructure construction material:Steel
Deck construction material:Steel
Length overall:154.5 metres
Length waterline:152.2 metres
Length bp:148 metres
Beam:17.5 metres
Draught:4.5 metres
Depth:7.5 metres
Displacement:10,438 tonnes
Deadweight tonnage:5757
Gross tonnage:8523
Net tonnage:2556
Capacity:728 metres of railways or 860 lane metres for other freight
Main engines:2 x 2,600 kW
Propulsion:2 x controllable-pitch propellers
Auxiliary engines:Rigas Dizelis
Generators:5 x 300 kW
Side thrusters:2 x 300 kW
Steering system:2 x rudders; rotary vane type electro-hydraulic steering gear
Maximum speed:16 knots
Cruising speed:14 knots
Range:2,500 nautical miles
Electronics supplied by:Transas
Radars:S-band ARPA; X-band ARPA
Depth sounder:50 kHz with 3 x remote display units
Radios:MF/HF; VHF with DSC; helicopter radio set
Satcom:Inmarsat-miniC with EGC/SSAS/LRIT
Autopilot:Adaptive heading control system
Compasses:2 x magnetic; gyrocompass
Audio/video system:Zenitel
Alarm/monitoring systems:API Marine
Cameras/night vision:CCTV cameras
Capstan/windlass:2 x Adria Winch
Other deck equipment:Cargo lift
Watermaker:30 m³/day
Other equipment installed:2 x Rolls-Royce retractable fin stabilisers
Windows:Husna Yapi Gemi Malz
Interior lighting:Ship Light
External lighting:Ship Light
Interior designer:Intelligent Design
Interior fitout/furnishings:Inteligent Design
Firefighting equipment:Water sprinkler; foam; aerosol; CO2
Liferafts:Viking Life-Saving Equipment
Lifeboats:2 x Viking Norsafe 22-pax
Rescue boats:Viking Norsafe 6-pax; Viking Norsafe 15-pax
Type of fuel:Heavy fuel oil; diesel
Fuel capacity:382,000 litres (heavy fuel oil); 48,000 litres (diesel)
Freshwater capacity:101,000 litres
Sewage/blackwater capacity:121,000 litres
Accommodation:Cabins; duty-free shop; internet cafe; game saloon with bar; restaurant;a smoking room; single-place hospital; patients’ rooms; physician’s office with outpatient clinic; single-place isolation ward

Baird Maritime

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