A BRAND-NEW fleet will replace two iconic ferries servicing the Bass Strait in 2024. Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II have connected Tasmania with the Australian mainland since their arrival in Australia more than two decades ago. But two new spirits are taking shape at a shipyard on the west coast of Finland.

Rauma Marine Constructions is building the vessels concurrently under a contract with TT-Line. The Australian ferry operator anticipates delivery of Spirit of Tasmania IV in the European summer of 2024 and sister ship Spirit of Tasmania V in early 2025.

The latest milestone in the construction journey (as of late November 2023) was the official launch of Spirit of Tasmania IV on 27 October. Once the ship was christened with a bottle of sparkling Tassie wine, project teams opened the valves to let water into the drydock, allowing the vessel to float for the first time.

Spirit of Tasmania IV is still at the shipyard, but with water under keel the project teams have turned their attention to equipment assembly, electrical systems and other interior works. They are also continuing work around the vessel’s engine room and car deck.

Spirit of Tasmania V is now being pieced together in the drydock initially occupied by the first of the two vessels. A live stream from the RMC shipyard (available through the Spirit of Tasmania website) showed massive pieces of hull being attached together in late November, in rather snowy conditions. Spirit of Tasmania V was just beginning to resemble a ship.


Australia is well-represented at the RMC shipyard – Spirit of Tasmania’s project technical manager John Anastassiou travelled from Australia to Finland to oversee the development of the new vessels. He said the ships are being built especially for challenging Bass Strait conditions.

The existing fleet, though also Finnish-built, was not initially designed for their current route; the ships in the fleet previously operated in the Adriatic Sea. But the new, purpose-built fleet was designed to sail between Devonport and Geelong – a distance of 242 nautical miles – with more passengers and more cargo.

Mr Anastassiou said the new ships would be powered by LNG and diesel. Each has four Wärtsilä nine cylinder turbocharged dual-fuel engines.

“It’s all part of the program for future fuels and reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” Mr Anastassiou told Daily Cargo News.

Spirit of Tasmania’s project technical manager John Anastassiou. Image: Abby Williams

When Mr Anastassiou gave DCN a tour of the shipyard and the Spirit of Tasmania IV in early October 2023 he pointed out a propeller shaft being installed that day.

“We’ve got two propellers on each ship, so we’ve got quite a lot of propulsion power against the Bass Strait,” he said.

“A car would be about 100 kilowatts. We’ve got 42,000 kilowatts.”

The new ships measure 212 metres LOA with a beam of 31 metres. Each has a gross tonnage of 48,000 tonnes and deadweight tonnage of 6400 DWT. Mr Anastassiou highlighted the amount of space allotted to passenger and freight vehicles; the vessels each have a capacity of 4098 vehicle lane metres.

He said vehicles enter through the back of the ship and drive out through the front. This system – combined with two three-level ramps installed in the ports of Geelong and Devonport – is expected to streamline the roll-on roll-off process for freight vehicles and passengers.

“We can carry the big 40-foot containers and trucks, and there are hanging decks, so seasonally when we have to carry more cars, we lower these down,” he said.

“We’ve got three levels of loading and unloading … we’re doing it for the first time. On our existing ships, we often have to move freight before we let the passengers off, whereas now, as soon as we tie up, we can call the passengers to disembark.”


Finland has designed and built ferries for service all around the world, including many for short voyages in the surrounding Baltic waters. Mr Anastassiou said a notable difference between building a ferry for service in Northern Europe and a ferry for the Bass Strait route is the amount of onboard accommodation.

Each new spirit can accommodate 1800 passengers in 301 cabins and 165 reclining seats. The journey between Devonport and Geelong takes between nine and 11 hours, depending on the conditions. But ferries that get passengers from one country to another in a couple of hours – like many sailing in the Baltic Sea – do not need as many cabins.

The bridge of the new Spirit of Tasmania. Image: Abby Williams

“The Bass Strait is unique. The ferries here that do short runs – none of them will have hundreds of cabins like we’ve got, because they’re not for overnight trips,” Mr Anastassiou said.

All 764 cabins for the two vessels – including the 162 crew cabins in total – are being built offsite at a mobile cabin factory. TT-Line contracted turnkey cabin specialist Almaco to provide modular cabins for the ships. Almaco has built upwards of 34,000 cabins in the past two decades. Its mobile cabin factory includes a pop-up cabin assembly line which, according to Almaco, can be set up anywhere in the world. In this case, it is at a warehouse outside of Rauma.

Complete, furnished cabins are transferred to the ships and slotted into place. Almaco said the only work needed after delivery is to connect electricity, ventilation and piping.

Family cabins, luxury cabins and accessible cabins with adjoining rooms for carers are among the hundreds of modular cabins lined up for installation.

Mr Anastassiou, and presumably his dog, are most excited about the pet-friendly cabins.


The bridge of Spirit of Tasmania IV will become central to crew training before the ship begins its journey to Devonport in 2024. The bridge was still an unfinished assemblage of cables and beams in early October, but once complete it will feature sophisticated navigational technology.

The Spirits are designed to function with a second bridge and other duplicate systems if there is an emergency at sea.

Mr Anastassiou noted this is a relatively new requirement for passenger ships; the Safe Return to Port provisions of the SOLAS convention came into force in 2010. Spirit of Britain – the first ferry in the world to meet the Safe Return to Port requirements – was delivered in Rauma the following year.

“If the whole bridge was totally wiped out, there’s a repeat of everything, so they can still drive the ship home,” he said.

“They could navigate the ship from here and control the engines, and there’s a lot of that throughout the ship, so the survivability of the ship in any major catastrophe is very, very high.”

That’s two bridges, two engine rooms, two switchboard rooms, two propellers and four engines. All four engines run at sea, but Mr Anastassiou said there is enough power in just two engines and one propeller to get the ship back to port.

And to get the vessels to Australia in the first place, Mr Anastassiou said the plan is to bring crewmembers from the existing fleet over to Finland for training. A training program could involve time on the simulators at the nearby Maritime Logistics Research Center of the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) and on the simulators at the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania.

“We’ll try and sail the ship back with our own crew,” Mr Anastassiou said.

“We will actually work out a complete program for all the crew, the engineers, electricians, the deck officers and so forth, and we’ll end up with a mass of people who can sail one ship, and then in the initial periods of the first ship going on the run we’ll double up the crew.

“So, those people get training off people who have been trained on the new ship.”

Mr Anastassiou said the team will also be able to familiarise themselves with the new ships and systems under the guidance of Captain Heikki Koivisto, maritime project manager at SAMK.

“We’ll do a lot of it alongside as well; when we’re operational alongside and we can put power on, we can do things like run the equipment while the ship is tied up to the wharf,” Mr Anastassiou said.

“There’ll be a lot of practicing and training going on at that level in a very detailed way. We absolutely can’t have any mistakes.

“We’ve got competent crew now, so we’ll make them competent on this new ship.”


Mr Anastassiou expects the ships’ maiden voyages to Australia to take about four weeks, depending on where they stop to refuel.

TasPorts will welcome the Spirits to a new, dedicated wharf at the Port of Devonport, currently under construction as part of Project QuayLink. In late November, work was about to begin on the three-tiered ramp built for the new ferries. And at GeelongPort, the ferries will call the Spirit of Tasmania Quay as their Victorian home.

This article appeared in the December 2023/January 2024 edition of DCN Magazine