by Rob Mundle
Whale watching vessel, Spirit of Hervey Bay is an example of high tech composite technology, the way of the future.
In a world where fuel economy is now king, this boat proves that composite construction is becoming the alternative to aluminium.
'This is the way of the future,' declared Noah Thompson, the designer of the composite construction 24-metre long whale watching ferry, Spirit of Hervey Bay, after it completed sea trials and a month of operations out of Hervey Bay, Queensland.
'In a world where fuel economy is now king, this boat proves that composite construction is becoming the alternative to aluminium. The combination of an efficient design, the use of ATL Composite materials and engineering services, and a superb build has led to the creation of a commercial vessel that has exceeded all expectations.'
Thompson, whose company East Cape Marine Ltd. is based in Te Puke, in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, is seen as a rising star in naval architecture. After a string of successful small composite designs he has now gone into the arena of large commercial vessels, thanks in part to Wayne Jones, whose boatbuilding company, Streamline Catamarans, is located in Hervey Bay.
In recent times Jones has built a string of Thompson’s smaller designs using ATL Composites’ materials and engineering services. So, when the opportunity came to design and build the 24-metre Spirit of Hervey Bay, the same team came together and has excelled.
'This is the largest vessel by volume that we have built,' said Jones, 'and our decision to use DuraKore and a DuFLEX composite panel kit from ATL made the construction much quicker and easier. It is the technology associated with these products that is revolutionising the way boats are being built lighter and stronger.'
Because whale watching is very much a seasonal business, Spirit of Hervey Bay’s owner called for a functional vessel – one that could be adapted to suit many callings. As a result Spirit of Hervey Bay is very much multi-functional.
For whale watching it has a series of underwater viewing windows, and the forward deck is styled as an amphitheatre so all guests get an uninterrupted view of the whales when they surface alongside the vessel. In another mode Spirit of Hervey Bay can cater for weddings or special functions, where up to 100 guests can be seated for dining. And, as an extension of this feature the passenger seating on the upper deck can easily be removed so the area becomes a dance floor. Guests can also enjoy full bar facilities on this deck.
'We know of very few other ferries in the world that offer such a flexible number of configurations for business,' said Thompson. 'It steps outside all the existing boundaries. It even has the accommodation needed to take 20 guests away for extended cruising.'
Thompson said that the owner’s request for a high volume, light displacement vessel that would operate at speed yet be very fuel efficient meant that DuraKore balsa composite hull planking, and DuFLEX composite panels for the topsides and superstructure, were the logical choice.
'My personal view is that ATL Composites create a superior boatbuilding product,' Thompson said. 'As this vessel clearly shows, there are no limitations in kitset size. Bigger projects are now on my drawing board using the ATL supplied DuraKore and DuFLEX router kits.
'Yes, there is a lot more design time involved for the creation of a complex 3D kit, but this is outweighed by the fact that these kits save a massive amount of construction time primarily through a significant reduction in the number of man-hours. Compared to traditional boatbuilding where you so often see a major cost over-run, this ATL product proved to be exceptional with the ease of assembly; the CNC-routed kit has every part numbered, so when it arrived at the Streamline factory each piece could be easily identified and put into place during the assembly process, just like a huge Meccano set.'
Thompson added that everyone involved with this project was more than satisfied with the end result: 'The requirement was for a service speed of between 18 and 20 knots with 245 passengers on board, and Spirit of Hervey Bay is currently achieving 21 knots at 1800rpm.
'The hulls feature subtle bulb bows and the power comes from twin 900hp Yanmar engines on straight shafts with fixed pitch props. These attributes have contributed to a massive saving in fuel costs compared to other similar sized boats. Incredibly, the hulls appear to be performing equally well at light-ship as they do at full displacement with only a slight change in speed or rpm.'
The triple deck Spirit of Hervey Bay, which took 15 months to build, was engineered by ATL Composites to meet Australian Standard USL 1C/1D. The hulls were strip planked in DuraKore over male frames while the remainder of the vessel was manufactured and supplied by ATL as a DuFLEX Composite Panel Kit. Fibreglass reinforcements, KINETIX Laminating Epoxies and WEST SYSTEM brand epoxy products were used throughout.
The composite panel kits are created at ATL’s Gold Coast facility using state-of-the-art CNC routing machinery. The kits are acclaimed throughout the boatbuilding industry for their quality and the significant savings they deliver to a project, especially through labour costs and the minimisation of waste material.
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