- Editorial Staff
- Ship design and development, Naval Technology
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2017 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The RAN’s experience with catamaran hulls has been limited and has produced mixed results.
The first experiment with catamaran hulled fibreglass minehunters, built by Carrington’s at Newcastle between 1986 and 1987, was not successful. These two vessels, HMA Ships Rushcutter and Shoalwater, were plagued by problems and were placed into Reserve in 1999 and disposed of shortly thereafter.
At the same time in 1999 owing to a short-term gap in operational logistical support during the Timor campaign Navy leased an Incat designed and Tasmanian built Bass Strait ferry, commissioned as HMAS Jervis Bay. With high speed wave piercing characteristics she was able to rapidly move both troops and materials between Darwin and East Timor. At an average speed of 45 knots she could make the passage in 11 hours and in her two years of operation made 107 crossings, before she was handed back to her owners in 2001. This operation proved very successful and despite the continued garlands won by Incat in furthering Australian shipbuilding industrial credentials there has seemingly been little more RAN interest.
It might be time to reintroduce readers to the latest Incat success story. This is the 1,516 tonne, 99 meter long, 27 meter beam and 3 meter draught Francisco which on trials achieved a lightship speed of 58.1 knots. When loaded with up to 1,000 passengers and 150 cars she has a service speed of about 50 knots.
The vessel’s high speed is attributed to the combination of Incat wave piercing catamaran design, the use of lightweight but strong marine grade aluminium, and the power produced by two 22MW GE LM2500 gas turbines driving Wartsila LJX 1720 SR waterjets. Francisco was constructed in Hobart for service with the Buquebus Company on the River Plate between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. She is the eighth Incat vessel operated by Buquebus and their associated companies.
Incat has now built 25 high speed craft and the past three consecutive winners of the Hales Trophy, the Transatlantic Blue Riband record for commercial passenger ships, were all built by Incat. The average speed over three days of the Atlantic crossing for an unrefueled voyage was 41.28 knots. Truly an amazing story of Australian ingenuity most worthy of continued local support.