More than 800 fast ferries operate around the world with MTU power

7/12/2017 | Words: Katharina Dietrich | Pictures: MTU

fast ferries, MTU, engine, power

More than two billion people worldwide decided to travel by ferry in 2016 - almost as many as those who opted for air travel. Ferry business is booming. In large metropolitan areas such as Istanbul, New York and Hong Kong, shifting passenger s from road to waterborne transport has been an inevitable move to avoid gridlock and to eliminate road traffic congestion.

It is mainly the commuters and tourists who have realised that ferries are serious alternatives to the standard means of transport, notably rail travel and the private car. Waterborne transport provides visitors to a large city with impressions that a train or car cannot offer and gives them an unrivalled view of the city they are visiting. What commuters appreciate most of all is the relaxed and quiet atmosphere with the absence of traffic jams and delays. For short journeys, fast ferries are the preferred choice. They achieve speeds of at least around 25 knots, which is approximately 46 km/h, and offer travellers considerable time savings. On some routes, fast ferries can even compete with air travel in terms of the overall travel time, as is the case with the ferry services operating between Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Around 820 fast ferries worldwide are powered by MTU engines. There is no other brand of engine installed on so many fast ferries. MTU has been developing and building tough and powerful marine propulsion systems for more than one hundred years.

“We know precisely what operators of standard ferry and fast ferry services need and we are working constantly to develop our range of products even further in order to meet the very specific requirements of our customers at all times. Our engines have a relatively low weight, are extremely powerful and have an extremely compact design – and these are precisely the reasons why operators of fast ferries, double-ended ferries and catamarans decide in favour of propulsion systems from MTU,” explains Knut Müller, Head of the Marine and Government Business Division at MTU.

Fast ferry market gaining in momentum
The fast ferry market is currently experiencing a period of renewed growth. Engines that were installed during the peak period between 2005 and 2010 are now being replaced with new engines or fitted with replacement parts as a result of their very long service life. Many countries have launched modal shift initiatives to transfer traffic from their congested roads to seaborne means of transport, the result of which is an increased demand for ferry services. China, for example, is planning to reduce the size of its fleet, which currently consists of many small vessels, and to invest in larger vessels instead, in order to use its limited water space more effectively and to reduce harmful emissions. As a result of overpopulation and the resultant increase in the size of the cities, the shipping networks will also be expanded in order to provide the best possible maritime services.

Swimming with the Kennedys
Since 1960, the Steamship Authority has provided a ferry service linking Cape Cod with the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, offering passengers an impressive view of New England’s romantic landscape on the way. The Kennedy dynasty has its roots here and anyone visiting Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket will know why John F. Kennedy preferred to spend his time at home on the coast of Massachusetts. Sailing, walking along the beach or swimming in the surf - what Kennedy loved to do is now the favourite pastime of countless holidaymakers each year in New England.

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M/V Woods Hole in New England

The latest ferry operated by the Steamship Authority, the M/V Woods Hole, carries as many as 384 passengers and 55 cars on each journey several times a day to the picturesque islands in the region. It is powered by two MTU 16V 4000 M64 Ironmen engines that have made the ferry one of the most reliable and cleanest in Cape Cod. Operators such as the Steamship Authority are delighted, particularly with the reliability, durability and efficiency of the MTU engines. Two other ferries in service with the largest ferry operator in the region are also powered by MTU engines.

We’ve been very pleased with the operation, maintenance and support of our MTU Series 4000 over the past eleven years. Our latest ferry has been running for over seven months now without a single lost trip due to propulsion related issues.Carl Walker, Director of Engineering and Maintenance at the Steamship Authority


Since it is only possible to reach the two large islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket by sea, ferries are one of the most important means of transport in the area, particularly in the high season, when the islands are explored by some 50,000 visitors.

Access to the outside world
Fast ferries mean convenience and comfort, and above all offer savings in travel time. They are extremely important for many sectors of industry and for the economic viability of a local area or region. They also ensure that the younger residents of the islands get to school on time, for example, that supermarkets are supplied with fresh produce and backpackers are able to go on a voyage of discovery that offers them unique views in areas of natural beauty. Ferries are often the only way to link up virtually inaccessible places to the outside world. Fully loaded trucks are driven onto the ferries to deliver food, medical supplies and all kinds of everyday necessities to the small communities along the ferry routes.

One such ferry is the Shinas, which reached a top speed of almost 56 knots, i.e. around 103 km/h, during sea trials, making it the fastest diesel-powered ferry in the world. It connects the city of Muscat with the mountainous Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman in five and a half hours. The ferry is powered by four 20-cylinder MTU Series 1163 engines, delivering a total power output of 26,000 kW.

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The ferry Shinas is powered by Series 1163 MTU engines.

The Musandam Peninsula is located on the Strait of Hormuz, where the steep cliffs of the Al Hajar Mountains plunge down into the turquoise blue waters of the sea. Known as the “Norway of the Middle East”, this region owes its name to its wild and rugged fjord landscape. The northeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula consists of ranges of magnificent limestone mountains that soar to a height of 2,087 metres above sea level. The sheer cliff walls of the fjord‘s have made the life of the people in this region and access difficult for centuries. The airport and ferries supply the basic necessities for the 40,000 or so people living in this region.

The Shinas is one of two identical ferries that were ordered in May 2006 by the Sultanate of Oman. They transport heavy loads, such as cars and trucks. Attracted by the abundant and colourful marine life, more and more tourists are coming here to dive, snorkel or fish, and are now to be seen in growing numbers on board the Shinas.

Fast and powerful: even pirates have no chance
It was something the crew of the Jean de la Valette ferry had not expected: pirates tried to board the vessel on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait as they were entering the Red Sea during the delivery trip from Australia. With a top speed of over 70 km/h, however, the Jean de la Valette simply outran them – with credit going to the powerful MTU Series 8000 engines.

Four MTU engines of this series deliver the power for what is currently the largest and most modern high-speed catamaran in Europe. Achieving speeds of up to 39 knots, the 106-metre long vessel completes the Malta – Sicily crossing in a record time of just 90 minutes. Since September 2011, the ferry has provided a regular service carrying passengers and cargo several times a day on the route between the South-European island state and Sicily.

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Virtu Ferries' Jean de la Valette completes the Malta - Sicily crossing in 90 minutes.

While passengers take a stroll on the upper deck, relax in the luxuriously appointed VIP lounge or do some shopping in the kiosk, hard work is being performed in the engine room: this is where four enhanced-performance, 20-cylinder MTU Series 8000 engines deliver the 36,400 kW of power required to send the ferry zipping across the open sea. Series 8000 engines are the largest and most powerful the company manufactures.

To ensure that the vessel‘s engines can handle the work with no outages and no delays on the crossing between Malta and Sicily, the propulsion units are inspected at regular intervals. For more extensive maintenance work, which requires specialist knowledge, Virtu Ferries concluded a service agreement with MTU, which it has recently extended. The MTU ValueCare service portfolio includes extensive services with customised maintenance agreements, original spare parts or consumables, such as coolant, engine oil and filters. MTU ValueCare products and services are available worldwide via MTU’s extensive network of more than 1,200 service locations.

The reliable engine and the excellent service that MTU has in place in Malta enable us to operate the vessel very efficiently. Not a single trip has had to be cancelled
since the first day of operation over six years ago
Francis Portelli, Managing Director of Virtu Ferries

It won‘t be long before the Jean de la Valette will be forced to hand over its title of the fastest high-speed catamaran operating in the Mediterranean to its new sister vessel. Virtu Ferries will place a new 110-metre long high-speed catamaran in service as of the end of 2018, which will also be powered by four MTU Series 8000 engines. A long-term maintenance agreement with MTU for a period of 12 to 18 years and up to 24,000 hours of operation will also guarantee reliable, day-to-day operation of the vessel.

Norway‘s water highways
Fast ferries have become indispensable in Norway. They link up the villages and cities along the 21,437 kilometres of rugged coastline like express trains. The residents of Norway are dependent on waterborne transport – whether they travel in their own boats or take the fastest means possible using public ferries. A large number of these ferries rely on MTU propulsion systems for their day-to-day operations. The MS Teisten, for example, which operates along the Norwegian coast and is equipped with MTU Series 2000 engines, is such a case.

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The Norwegian ferry MS Teisten

Four 900 kW,10-cylinder MTU Series 2000 engines provide the power required by the catamaran to enable it to accelerate to speeds of up to 35 knots, which is equivalent to just under 65 km/h.

These engines are awesome; I trust them absolutely.Jan Marcussen, Technical Officer at the MS Teisten

Fast ferries take people living on the islands into the city centre when they have to visit the local authorities, assist owners of summerhouses when they take off to the islands for the weekend and make it possible for tourists to take excursions into the unique landscape that consists of islands surrounded by the sea and the sound of seagulls flying overhead.

Without a boat of some kind, the country is virtually impossible to explore. And so they ply up and down the coast, link up villages with each other in minutes that otherwise require a journey that would take half a day by car. Catamarans in particular are very popular, since they are extremely fast due to their low weight.

MTU engines on course for a clean-energy future
Whether you find them on the Strait of Hormuz, in popular holiday regions in the Mediterranean, in the United States following in the footsteps of the Kennedys, or in the unrivalled landscape of Norway’s fjords, ferries powered by MTU engines are in service all over the world. They are an indispensable means of transport for the people living in the regions, for the tourists visiting the area and for the local industry. 

The demands placed on a ferry engine are high: reliability, long maintenance intervals, low fuel consumption and, when operating in what are frequently specially protected marine areas, environmental compatibility. Series 2000, 4000, 1163 and 8000 engines manufactured by MTU are reliable partners in this respect. In order to continue to meet these requirements in the future, when faced with even more stringent emission regulations, MTU is testing alternative fuels and propulsion systems, such as gas (LNG) and hybrid solutions, and is currently in the process of marketing advanced design diesel engines complete with exhaust gas aftertreatment. Ferry operators are among the first in maritime shipping to use MTU‘s new propulsion systems.

At the end of 2017, the first certified, series-production gas engines will leave the factory on their way to the Netherlands, where the Rederij Doeksen shipping company will use the gas engines for its ferry service on the Baltic in the Wadden Sea National Park. And on Lake Constance, the largest drinking water reservoir in Europe, a new ferry powered by a natural gas propulsion system produced by MTU is scheduled to enter service as of 2019. The ferry operator WETA Ferries will be increasing the size of its fleet as of 2018 in the San Francisco Bay, which has been designated as a state protected resource, with the addition of a new ferry equipped with advanced-design diesel engines from MTU.

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