THE FIRST vessels in a new fleet of hybrid ferries designed by Australia’s Incat Crowther is said to have exceeded performance expectations during sea trials, ahead of deployment in the Mediterranean Sea.

Incat Crowther designed the fleet of 12 high-speed monohull ferries for Italian ferry operator Liberty Lines. They were built at the Astilleros Armon shipyard in Spain.

The first two vessels, Vittorio Morace and HSC Cristina M, are to service routes between Sicily and nearby islands. In sea trials they were able to operate at speeds of up to 30 knots with a full load.

Each vessel in the new fleet is equipped with an integrated hybrid propulsion system that includes MTU 16V4000M65L engines providing both conventional and electric propulsion. Each vessel also has two e-motors, two variable-speed gensets, a battery system, electrical power management system and an MTU hybrid automation system.

This integrated system allows the fleet to enter and exit port in a zero-emissions mode at speeds of up to eight knots, with the ability to recharge each vessel via shoreside infrastructure during longer stops.

The vessels can also operate in a hybrid propulsion mode, reaching high speeds while recharging their batteries via the two main engines. They are also ready for conversion to hydrogen consumption in the future.

“The launches of Vittorio Morace and HSC Cristina M provide a glimpse into the future of low emission public transport,” Incat Crowther CEO Brett Crowther said.

“These vessels are a smart, long-term investment by Liberty Lines as not only do they help the company sustainably expand its fleet today, but they are also future-proofed for an operationally efficient, zero-emissions future as alternative fuels become more economically viable for operators.”

The 10 remaining vessels in the fleet are expected to follow Vittorio Morace and HSC Cristina M into service between 2024 and 2029.