VESSEL REVIEW | FastCat M17 & FastCat M18 – Two more robust, efficient newbuild ferries join Philippine operator’s growing fleet

FastCat M17 (Photo: APFC)

Filipino vessel owner Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation (APFC), which operates under the name FastCat, recently took delivery of two new catamaran Ro-Pax vessels in a series from Chinese shipbuilder Guangdong Bonny Fair Heavy Industry.

Named FastCat M17 and FastCat M18, the ferries are the latest two units in a series of catamaran Ro-Paxes designed by Australian naval architects Sea Transport Solutions and built by Guangdong Bonny Fair exclusively for APFC beginning in 2013.

APFC said the ferries were specifically designed for operation under the various weather and sea conditions typical in the many inter-island shipping routes throughout the Philippines. Further, aluminium was selected for the construction due to its lower weight – which translates into improved fuel efficiency – and its better corrosion-resistant quality compared to steel.

APFC chairman Christopher Pastrana had earlier confirmed that the design work that went into the ferries was the result of feedback from crews and customers on how improvements can be made in accommodation spaces and even in the bridge and the engine room.

The ferries each have an LOA of 50.6 metres (47.2 metres in length between perpendiculars), a beam of 17.5 metres, a depth of 4.2 metres, a maximum draught of 1.9 metres, a gross tonnage of 723, and a summer deadweight of 250 tonnes. The two hulls on each vessel carry a total of 10 watertight compartments.

FastCat M18 (Photo: APFC)

Each vessel also has onboard space for up to 360 passengers (compared to a maximum capacity of 325 passengers on their earlier sister ferries), 16 crewmembers, and 300 lane metres that can accommodate a maximum of 41 vehicles – typically 34 cars and seven trucks or buses – and other cargo. The vehicle deck has two ramp doors to facilitate loading and unloading via the bow and the stern.

Passenger accommodations are divided into three main classes: business class, premium economy, and sundeck/economy. The business class section has airline-type seating and greater legroom for 63 passengers and a snack bar in a fully air-conditioned space on the same level as the main/vehicle deck.

The premium economy section located on the upper deck is also fully air-conditioned with airline-type seating for 105 people. The sundeck/economy section, which is on the same deck as the wheelhouse, has bench seating for up to 107 and a roof made from a specialised material that helps reduce heat. The material used for the custom-made roof was supplied by Sunbrella Fabrics.

Adjacent to the business class area on the main deck is a dedicated accommodation space for individuals with limited mobility such as elderly passengers, disabled passengers, and pregnant women. This area can accommodate up to 10 people and has its own toilet and air-conditioning.

The air-conditioning equipment for all interior spaces utilises water-cooled systems that guarantee reduced CO2 emissions while all passenger sections come with individual life jackets. Both main and upper deck accommodation sections also feature luggage compartments.

Access to the various decks is by stairway and by lift, the latter being incorporated specifically for use by elderly and disabled passengers. The vessels also each have an asymmetric superstructure design with all accommodation decks prominently located on the starboard side to maximise the space available for vehicles and cargo while also retaining a reasonable passenger capacity. However, the wheelhouse itself remains centre-aligned on each vessel’s longitudinal axis directly above the vehicle deck.

The vessels are each powered by four Yanmar IMO Tier II-compliant diesel engines. The engines are connected to a quartet of Nakashima propellers via Yanmar gearboxes to enable cruising speeds of 16 and 17 knots. APFC said that the propellers were custom-designed to ensure improved engine performance and fewer maintenance downtimes. Also, like their sisters that were delivered beginning in late 2018, the two newbuilds are equipped with bow thrusters to facilitate easier and more precise docking/undocking as well as shorter turnaround times.

To further reduce environmental impact, eco-friendly paint from Jotun was used on the vessels’ hulls while dedicated garbage disposal systems were installed in the passenger spaces.

APFC had also put a premium on safety, hence the inclusion of key features such as fire-retardant upholstered seats in the interior passenger spaces, alarm systems, and lifeboats.

FastCat M17 is currently operating on APFC’s route between the provinces of Sorsogon and Northern Samar while FastCat M18 has already begun serving the company’s route between Batangas and Oriental Mindoro. APFC said the two ferries will later be deployed to serve other island provinces such as Palawan, Zamboanga, and Basilan after its newer sisters are delivered.

The newbuilds are the 15th and 16th ferries, respectively, to join APFC’s current active fleet, which the company hopes to expand to 30 vessels by 2031. Two more sister vessels were recently delivered following construction in China and are scheduled to begin operational sailings later this year.

Both FastCat M17 and FastCat M18 are classed by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and are sailing under the flag of Panama.

Photo: APFC

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

FastCat M17 & FastCat M18
Type of vessel:Ro-Pax ferries
Classification:American Bureau of Shipping
Owner:Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation, Philippines
Operator:Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation, Philippines
Designer:Sea Transport Solutions, Australia
Builder:Guangdong Bonny Fair Heavy Industry, China
Hull construction material:Aluminium
Superstructure construction material:Aluminium
Deck construction material:Aluminium
Length overall:50.6 metres
Length bp:47.2 metres
Beam:17.5 metres
Draught:1.9 metres
Depth:4.2 metres
Deadweight tonnage:250
Gross tonnage:723
Capacity:41 vehicles
Main engines:2 x Yanmar
Gearboxes:2 x Yanmar
Propulsion:2 x Nakashima propellers
Cruising speed:17 knots
Other equipment installed:HVAC; garbage disposal systems
Seating:Fire-retardant seats in interior spaces; benches on sundeck
Floor/deck surface finishes:Sunbrella Fabrics sundeck roofing
Interior fitout/furnishings:Stairway; elevator; vehicle deck
Safety equipment:Life jackets; life rings
Type of fuel:Diesel
Accommodation:Business class area; premium economy area; sundeck/economy area; snack bar; space for passengers with limited mobility

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