Operating across the Swan River between Elizabeth Quay and South Perth, the 23.7 metre aluminium catamaran can carry up to 148 passengers and has a loaded top speed in excess of 16 knots.

With two catamaran ferries each providing departures every 15 minutes in peak periods, the route carried more than 648,000 passengers in 2018.

The clientele mixes commuters and leisure travellers, including the many locals and tourists of all ages who use the ferries to reach Perth Zoo from the city’s CBD. The service, operation of which is contracted to Captain Cook Cruises, consistently receives satisfaction ratings between 98 and 100 per cent in Transperth’s annual Passenger Satisfaction Monitor.

While currently operating solely on that route, the ferry has been designed and equipped to be suitable for longer journeys should Transperth’s operation expand in the future. This includes being faster and longer than the previous vessels, and the addition of a toilet.

In addition to meeting disabled access and National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) Class 1E survey requirements, Dongara Marine’s design partner Southerly Designs developed the catamaran within strict constraints. Operational needs dictated low air draft, compatibility with existing shore infrastructure, and being able to operate with only a Master. The Public Transport Authority further required that the vessel’s appearance and layout was in keeping with the existing ferries.

Dongara Marine also met client requirements and preferences through, for example, enabling integration of Transperth’s electronic ticketing, public address, and networked CCTV systems; incorporation of Side-Power bow thrusters for enhanced manoeuvring; and fitout selections such as providing seating commonality with its existing ferries, buses, and trains. Roof-mounted panels provide solar power for charging the ferry’s batteries and CCTV system.

Building the passenger ferry demonstrated the Western Australian boatbuilder’s extensive capability including aluminium fabrication, all of which was undertaken in-house, as well as engineering, fitout, and painting.

After completing a trade study considering technical, commercial, fuel consumption, and through-life support considerations, Dongara Marine opted to power the ferry with a pair of Cummins QSB6.7 diesel engines at the heavy duty rating of 184kW. These spin Veem propellers via Twin Disc MGX5065 gearboxes.

“Our engine selection enables the ferry to meet its operating speed requirement at a modest percentage of its maximum continuous rating,” Warr explained. “We expect that to have significant benefits for reliability, as well as providing extra speed should that be needed to make up for unexpected delays or on different routes in future.” MV Tricia achieved a speed of 18.5 knots on trials, easily exceeding the 16 knot contractual requirement.

All controls are centralised in a compact wheelhouse on the starboard side, an arrangement that enables the Master to dock the ferry singlehandedly and monitor passenger flows without leaving the control station.

Principal navigation tools include a Simrad NSS touch screen multifunction display that incorporates GPS, electronics charts, and CHIRP-enabled broadband sounder and interfaces with the Simrad Halo pulse compression radar. A Poseidon system from Oceanic Systems enables alarm, monitoring and control of the ferry’s various systems.

Dongara Marine’s Managing Director Rohan Warr noted that the contract award followed a competitive tendering process open to all bidders, including the many well-known ferry builders in Australia’s globally renowned aluminium shipbuilding industry.

“We were obviously delighted to be selected, especially given the quantity and quality of Australian ferry builders and the fact that we have typically built commercial fishing and pilot boats.  “We certainly appreciated the faith that the Public Transport Authority placed in us, and believe that has been justified throughout the project. Certainly from our perspective it has been successful, both technically and commercially,” Warr said.

On the passenger catamaran’s introduction to service in late December 2019, Western Australia’s Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti, said: “December 22 marks a year since I announced Dongara Marine would build the MV Tricia and they have delivered a ferry that locals and tourists will enjoy travelling on for years to come.”

Dongara Marine is currently contracted to build a lobster fishing vessel and a lines / personnel transfer boat as well as refits on offshore and rescue vessels.

“As those projects and the ferry demonstrate, we don’t limit ourselves to specific markets,” Warr said. “With MV Tricia now in service passenger vessel and charter boat operators, as well as Government agencies, have even greater assurance of our ability to meet their needs.”

Footnote: MV Tricia was named after Perth Zoo's popular 62-year-old Asian Elephant following a community survey.

Source: Dongara Marine