Can a standardized ferry concept for public transport be developed?

Interest in it is growing, but waterborne public transportation is associated with major challenges – not least in terms of technology but also regulations and system practice. A licentiate thesis from KTH focuses on developing a standardized ferry concept that makes the process easier.

Ferry procurement practices, local legislation and policies, environmental factors and, not least, winter and ice. The municipality or city that wants to invest in waterborne public transportation often has many thresholds to cross before the inhabitants can enjoy the sea and the archipelago on the way to work or school. Harsha Cheemakurthy, whose licentiate thesis Efficient commuter craft for urban waterborne public transportation was examined at KTH last Friday, believes that these challenges can be handled and that efficient ferries can be made easily accessible with a short production time at a price on par with other public transport.

– Public transport on water can be very energy efficient, even compared to electric buses and railways, he said when he presented his dissertation.

It focuses on developing a ferry concept based on modular design with overall standardized dimensions and with the ability to adapt the interior to operational requirements. But what is the downside, what do you lose on a standardized concept? Joakim Kalantari from VTI, who reviewed the dissertation, wondered.

– It is clear that a modulated ship can never be as efficient as a tailor-made one, but you can get close. The big advantage is that you save a lot of time and money in the manufacturing process, said Harsha Cheemakurthy.

Another advantage is the entire ferry’s life cycle. The ferry will be in use longer than a tailored one as it will be easier to replace the parts that need to be upgraded over time.

But how should this go in purely practical terms, Joakim Kalantari wondered. Who should set a global standard?
– I can not answer that. Politics and classification societies must decide that. What we can see and show is that there is value in this.

Running public transport on water in winter is not a matter of course in cities like Stockholm. For reliable traffic, all year round, which is both safe and sustainable, economically and environmentally, there is a great need for the development of light and strong hulls that can withstand operating in ice. It is important to find a middle ground.

– If you design a ferry that can handle 70 centimeters thick ice, the hull will be unnecessarily heavy and inefficient from a fuel point of view for eight or nine months a year. But if you make a hull that can handle 16 cm thick ice, which is the average, then maybe the ferry can stand still for a few days a year. It’s a trade-off you have to make, said Harsha Cheemakurthy.

Read the licentiate thesis

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