Report Predicts Growth In U.S. Coastal Ferry Market

Rapid technological advancement of large, fast, coastal and short-sea ferry designs is coinciding with favorable population and economic trends to create an important emerging new commercial market for U.S.

shipyards and suppliers, according to TransTech Marine's report, "Analysis of Coastal Ferry Markets and Technologies in the U.S." Present express ferry designs or those being developed will transport passengers in cabins and, in some cases, will also accommodate their vehicles over longer distance trips. Although these vessels will be large, they will travel at speeds formerly associated with smaller craft such as commuter ferries. In spite of their large size, these vessels will be unlike traditional cruise ships. And in addition to their high speeds, they also will be more glamorous and luxurious than conventional passenger/ vehicle displacement ferries.

This new market is best described as coastal and short-sea ferry cruising, similar in overall concept to some services in Europe, such as the Baltic ferries, but utilizing higher speed technology for the U.S. market.

Technologies now in the lead to develop the U.S. ferry cruise markets are SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) and SSC (Semisubmerged Catamaran). However, rapid advancements have been made recently in larger size ACV (Air Cushion Vehicle) and SES (Surface Effect Ship) designs, and important new technologies are coming into play, such as the Quadrimaran hull form that has recently been licensed for U.S. construction and the Techno- Superliner, now under development in Japan. All available or anticipated design technologies are profiled along with a U. S. builder in the report.

Markets identified for these fast ships in domestic trades could require between 30 to 50 vessels with an overall value to shipyards and suppliers exceeding $1 billion over the decade. Such a base would form an imprtant component of commercial series production that would position U.S. builders to compete in world markets for this business, as they do now in some other types of high technology, high value ships, according to the report.

A ferry cruise route representative of what TransTech forecasts for the future and dubbed the "Short Escape to the Cape" (as in Cape Cod) is illustrated in Figure 1. The new vessel technologies will enable bringing back modern versions of such as Fall River and Eastern Steamship lines, as well as opening up entirely new destinations. The report's vessel forecast is broken down by proposed route. Recognizing that seasonality impacts many routes in North America, the report contains complete financial analysis of one proposed service based on five months' operation. The analysis reveals that ferry cruise services can be profitable even without offseason vessel employment.

Geoffrey Uttmark, the report's author, recently said, "After you have technology that can economically live up to these demanding schedules and produce a satisfactory ROI, which is now emerging so that these services can be developed or re-developed, next you need a broad and deep marketing organization and superb operators." Mr.

Uttmark continued, "That kind of infrastructure does exist in the U.S.

now largely in modified form, such as airlines, foreign-flag cruise ship operators and international hotel chains. The best way it could be adapted to the ferry cruise business is through a parent organization responsible for marketing and finance with separate operating franchises." "Analysis of Coastal Ferry Markets and Technologies in the U.S." contains over fifty pages of information and figures describing all aspects of this emerging business. The report is a useful market development resource for U.S. ship designers, builders and equipment vendors seeking greater participation in new commercial markets, overseas licensers of advanced cruise ferry technology, vessel operators and managers, transportation planners and economists, and industry lenders and investment groups.

The report may be ordered by remitting $295 to TransTech Marine Co., 771 Carroll St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. There is an additional $10 charge for airmail postage for orders outside North America.

Other stories from May 1991 issue


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