Incat catamarans - providing service around the world
Incat passenger ferry ?The Lynx? is operated in New Zealand. ŠTranz Rail
Until recently most passenger ferries operated at speeds of 19 knots or less, with long 'turnaround' periods to unload and load passengers and vehicles. During the 1990s, large catamaran ferries made of aluminium started operating on ferry routes around the UK, then on other ferry routes around the world. These ferries, first made by Incat in Hobart, operated at twice the speed of conventional ferries and had very short 'turnaround' times, allowing operators to provide twice as many trips as before and dramatically reduce travel times for their passengers.
The introduction of the Incat ferries, and others made by Incat's competitors, sparked a revolution in ferry transport which continues today. Incat and other companies like Austel established a new shipbuilding industry in Australia which dominates world markets for high speed ferries and provides skilled jobs for thousands of Australians.
Incat's ferries have been successful in world markets not only because of their innovative design features, but also because of the innovations in service provided to the owners and operators of the ferries. This 'package' of a high-performance product with tailored services has allowed Incat's clients to customise each ferry to suit their own requirements, and to maintain and repair the ferries to minimise 'downtime' and loss of revenue.
The wave-piercing design developed for Incat's high speed catamaran ferries allows the twin hulls with sharp bows to 'pierce' the waves rather than riding over them. This innovation in design for fast, lightweight catamaran ferries was a collaboration between Robert Clifford, a boatbuilder and ferry operator, and Phillip Hercus, a ship designer.
The first small prototype, called Little Devil, was built in Hobart in 1983 and its performance in sea trials encouraged them to build a 28 metre passenger ferry called Spirit of Victoria which began operating in 1985. The partnership between Clifford and Hercus ended in 1988. Phillip Hercus continued to design ferries for shipbuilders around the world, from his company Incat Designs in Sydney. Robert Clifford set up a group of Incat companies to make large aluminium catamaran ferries in special facilities on the Derwent River in Hobart.
The first Incat ferry that could carry vehicles and passengers was a 74 metre wave-piercer called Hoverspeed Great Britain. On its delivery voyage to the UK in 1990 this ferry broke a longstanding record for a transatlantic crossing by a passenger vessel.
Through the 1990s the speed, capacity, and passenger comfort of the aluminium ferries made by the Incat group were improved by several design changes: by increasing the length of the ferries to 98m which greatly increased their capacity and made them less affected by individual waves, a change to waterjet propulsion, and by adding adjustable flaps and a retractable T foil to improve the trim and smoothness of the ride in rough conditions. Recent Incat ferries also provide moveable mezzanine vehicle decks which allow operators to quickly change the amounts of space for cars and trucks. These design innovations were supported by high levels of service to customers to assist them in purchasing, operating, and maintaining their ferries.
Through the 1990s the Incat group had remarkable success. Over 30 of its catamarans were sold or leased to ferry operators in Europe, Asia, South America, New Zealand and Australia. The wave-piercing design and ability of its skilled workforce to work with aluminium gave it a clear lead over other shipyards in construction of large high-speed ferries. During the 1990s it was estimated that Incat had about 40% of the world market for large high speed ferries.
However in recent years it has seen increasing competition from shipyards in Europe and from other Australian companies such as Austal in Perth. As the world market for large passenger ferries became oversupplied in 2000 and 2001, Incat was forced to restructure its operations and increase its efforts to lease ferries. Incat management envisages opportunities for its ferries in new applications such as high speed troop carriers and rapid freight services.
For more information about Incat visit http://www.incat.com.au.
The success of the Incat catamaran ferries in the 1990s came from Incat's development of an innovative product-service package that included services such as training, on-board maintenance and diagnostic systems, remote diagnostic services via radio and satellite links, and a mobile response team that offers repairs to any of the ferries within 24 hours.
Incat's customer service begins prior to sale with financial planning services and customised fit-out plan for clients.
The company's finance division assists buyers and operators to secure finance for purchasing the Incat ferries. It introduces customers to appropriate banks, financial companies and insurers, and also helps them to find taxation and legal advisors. Incat also assists buyers to calculate their potential operational costs and provides advice on planning and developing port infrastructure.
Incat has an in-house interior design group that can design and install a layout, seating, carpets, fittings, and colour scheme to meet the needs of clients in order to best meet the needs of their passengers. Interiors can include facilities for shops, kiosks, outdoor seating, dining areas, lounges, toilets, child play areas, and ramps for access by passengers with disabilities. Incat also has staff to design and apply the livery (exterior paint scheme and logo).
Training and delivery services
Incat provides training in Hobart for crews of new customers. One training course provided is a High Speed Familiarisation Course which trains the new ferry crew to use Incat ferries safely at high speeds. This enables ferry owners and operators with no previous experience in high speed ferries to rapidly gain this experience and bring the new vessel quickly into operation.
Incat and the Australian Maritime College in Hobart have also developed the High Speed Craft Safety and Systems Course. This course includes familiarisation with the layout and operation of the main systems on the vessel (such as propulsion, steering, ride control, navigation, communication, and air conditioning). It is designed to show how the new technologies enable the vessel to be operated more efficiently and flexibly to meet changing seasonal demands such as different mixes of passengers and vehicle sizes.
Technical staff accompany new crews on the delivery voyage from Hobart to assist in learning about inspections, reports and the maintenance schedules designed for the major equipment on the ferry. On some of these delivery voyages, new speed records have been set and trophies awarded (eg Hales Trophy) - publicity about these records benefits both Incat and the new owner.
In 1999 a dedicated Technical and After Sales Support Unit was established at Incat. This group assists owners and operators of Incat ferries to maintain reliable services for their customers. Incat staff work with ferry operators to streamline regular maintenance and quickly deal with any problems which could lead to a ferry being out of action (downtime).
New Incat ferries are fitted with Litton Integrated Ship Information Systems (ISIS) which receive and store data from instruments in all the onboard operating systems and display a selection of this data to the crew at the bridge.
A tool for ship operators to diagnose problems has been developed by Incat staff. It is called VISIT, or Vessel Information Systems Interactive Telemetry. This tool links the ship's computer with the Incat's main computer in Hobart. On-board technical staff can access data, such as drawings and specifications, from Incat in Hobart to diagnose potential problems. Incat technicians at Hobart can work with on-board operators without having to travel to the ship. Operators can email images of on-board equipment and instruments to Incat to assist in identifying problems and taking appropriate action.
The VISIT system was developed and tested on DevilCat, the Incat ferry which operated on the Bass Strait route. It has now been installed on many of the Incat ferries around the world. VISIT has proved to have four main advantages in the maintenance of Incat ferries:
- It allows on-board schedules for inspection and maintenance of operating systems (eg the propulsion system) to be reviewed and, if needed, reconfigured to improve them.
- Data from the ship's ISIS computer system can be collected and sent to Incat's design office to help improve design and development of new technologies.
- It gives technical staff on ferries access to a bulletin board which provides information and advice from staff on other Incat ferries about particular maintenance issues and methods of dealing with these, and updates from suppliers of equipment used in the ferries.
- VISIT allows Incat technical staff to monitor maintenance checks made on-board, assess whether schedules are being followed, and advise on any problems.
Incat's technical staff can join a team for emergency work on any of its ferries within 24 hours. Suppliers of key components for the ferries, such as engines, have service agreements with Incat that also provide for a 24 hour response to emergencies.
The VISIT system, as well as functioning as tool for facilitating maintenance, provides assistance in diagnosing problems and carrying out repairs. It gives on-board technical staff access to a pool of experts at Incat and at the suppliers of the equipment (eg the engines). On-board staff can send and receive digital photos, drawings, sketches, tables, and other information to assist technical staff at Incat. It also allows Incat staff assisting with dry docking and other procedures to access any technical information needed for the procedure.
Retrofits, refits and trials
Incat have successfully retrofitted and refitted their ships to adapt to new uses and customer requirements. In the early 1990s, customers reported that the high operating speed was resulting in excessive ferry motion in high seas causing passengers to become seasick. Incat collaborated with supplier Maritime Dynamics Inc (MDI) and ferry operators Condor Ltd and Sea Containers to develop a solution to the vehicle motion problem. Incat ferries were retrofitted with retractable T-foils or trim tabs to control the ride motion and improve passenger comfort.
Incat has also carried out refits of their ships for special purposes, most notably for military trials. In the late 1990s the Royal Australian Navy used the Incat built HMAS Jervis Bay for carrying troops between Australia and East Timor. This was followed by the refit of an Incat ship in 2001 for use by the U.S. military and coast guard. This ship, called Joint Venture, was used to evaluate the military suitability of the high speed catamarans and determine the operational requirements for putting them into military use. Incat has formed a partnership with US shipbuilding company Bollinger and hopes that the military potential of their ships will be realised as a result of this trial.
Since 1990 Incat has launched over 30 vessels that are now in operation around the world. It continues to innovate in the field of fast ferry design and manufacture.
Incat is an example of a manufacturing company that has created an innovative product-service package that links an advanced high-value product with specialised services to provide its customers (ferry operators) with a significant competitive advantage (fast, flexible and reliable ferry services). This strategy, of creating an innovative product-service package, has been critical to Incat's success.
Links and References
Incat Tasmania. http://www.incat.com.au
Incat Designs - Sydney. http://www.incatdesigns.com.au/
Jane Marceau et al. Selling Solutions: emerging patterns of product-service linkage in the Australian economy. Australian Expert Group in Industry Studies, University of Western Sydney, 2002. Available from: http://www.abfoundation.com.au/research_knowledge/research/93
First published by the Powerhouse Museum on the Australia innovates website, 2001-2002
Robert Renew, Senior Curator and Angelique Hutchison, Curator
Object viewed times
Images on this site are reproduced for the purposes of research and study only. Whilst every effort has been made to trace the Copyright holders, we would be grateful for any information concerning
Copyright of the images and we will withdraw them immediately on Copyright holder's request.