“The Crewboat Enterprise” was the title of an article that appeared in the April 2000 edition of WorkBoat. Written by Capt. Max Hardberger, the story dealt with crewboat designs of the future. At the time, the most advanced catamaran crewboat in operation was the 120′, 250-passenger Stillwater River, built in 1998 at Eastern Shipbuilding Group for Trico Marine Services. Powered by gas-turbine engines, the vessel, with a top speed of 30 knots, burned diesel fuel at the rate of 730 gph, making it hard on a company’s bottom line.
Earlier this month, Gulf Craft LLC delivered the 192’x41’x14’4″ SEACOR Lynx to SEACOR Marine. The 120-DWT, 150-passenger aluminum catamaran crew/supply boat can hit speeds of 40 knots powered by four MTU 16V4000 M73L main engines, producing a total of 15,440 hp at 2,050 rpm, turning four Hamilton HT-810 waterjets. The catamaran can also carry up to 150 LT of cargo and tankage that includes 23,200 gals. of fuel oil and 4,400 gals. fresh water.
The Lynx is the first crewboat with DP-3 capability, meaning it’s designed to stay on station even when a major component such as a main engine, thruster, or fuel system goes out or when a compartment is destroyed by fire or flood.
So where does crewboat design go from here? Hydrofoils and hovercraft have been a part of the conversation for years, but both of those types of crafts are limited in operating abilities around offshore structures.
In Max’s 2000 article, professor of naval architecture Dr. Robert LaTorre said he expected that large turboprop ekranoplanes carrying 200 passengers at speeds of 300 mph would appear some day on open-water ferry routes. The ekranoplanes, half boat and half airplane, could provide alternatives to helicopters and surface-supported crewboats in the distant future.
Ridiculous you say? I remember not so long ago people thought that a crewboat carrying both cargo and passengers was a far-out idea.
As for the near future, LaTorre said, “As long as the craft remains in or on the water, a water drive is the most efficient, and the diesel engine is the most efficient power for a water drive. There are alternatives, such as turbine engines, but the complexity and expense of their drive components make their future in crewboats problematic.”
SEACOR will soon take delivery of a sister ship to the Lynx, the SEACOR Leopard.