The assignment: design a safe and affordable 200-passenger ferry for the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand.

The answers from winning student teams from three maritime institutions came back with common elements: aluminum catamarans for stability, speed and efficiency, fire detection and suppression systems, and planning for passenger safety and rescue.

The Worldwide Ferry Safety Association (WFSA) announced winners of its 2017 Competition for the design of a safe and affordable ferry, chosen by a panel of prestigious judges, at the association’s Ferry Safety & Technology Conference in New York City last week.

“Urban linear ferries like Bangkok and New York are in growth mode everywhere,” said Roberta Weisbrod, the WFSA’s executive director.  “The students have garnered useful experience, especially the awardees, in designing for a growing market. The extra value to the industry are some interesting and useful approaches by the student teams.”

For the competition, students from nine institutions submitted their designs for a 200-passenger ferry on a 30-kilometer route through the Bangkok region, with the mandate of providing plans for a vessel that is safe, affordable to construct and operate and is appropriate for its intended geographic place.

Farn Sritrairatana, executive director of Chao Phraya Express Boat Co. Ltd., described his company’s mission: “Chao Phraya Express Boat Co. Ltd., continuously seeks ways to improve the safety and service level of our operation. We progressively upgrade our vessels and landings to become more integrated with the Bangkok's mass transit system. We are pleased and proud that our ferry system benefits local commuters as well as promote tourism in the City of Bangkok by allowing tourists to comfortably access the Chao Phraya river to visit temples, local communities, important landmarks, hotels and shopping area along the river.”

There were three award winning teams, from the University of Liege, from the Webb Institute and from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, first, second and third prize respectively. All these submissions were for aluminum catamarans for stability and fuel efficiency; all had fire detection and suppression equipment.

The first-place winning design came from the team at the University of Liege EMShip program in Belgium under faculty advisor professor Andre Hage, and studen Syed Marzan Ul Hasan, who designed the vessel. One interesting feature is that long-haul passengers and tourists sit in front where they get the best views, while the short distance commuters are aft, where boarding and disembarking are quickest. The seating allocation also places elderly, physically challenged and pregnant women and people with small children and strollers nearer to the doorways.

This design also considered the night operation of the vessel, typically in the hours up to 10 p.m., with the all- round visibility from a raised navigation room and night visibility and signaling arrangements that are essential for safe navigation through the dense waterway. In addition the design includes a quick-retractable mast to ensure compliance the air draft restrictions on the intended river route with its many low bridges.

The critical issue of safety of the passengers was addressed by adequate intact/damage stability, including compliance with wind heel criteria, and accounting for the stability contingency of passengers crowding to one side. Adequate life saving appliances and fire safety features including fire insulation from machinery spaces, fire hose provisions, audible-visual alarms and signals. Emergency fire pump and generator arrangements ensure additional safety. Another safety element is free space aft that can serve as a marshaling and rescue zone in the event of emergency. The designer addressed the risk during passenger embarkation and disembarkation due to tight time schedules by provision of foldable ramps for quick but safe movement of the commuters.

Environmental sustainability was addressed through design for low water wake, low exhaust emissions, and minimal water discharge pollution. Promotion of these features encourages further actions toward river restoration.

The runner-up design came from a team at New York's Webb Institute.

The runner-up design came from a team at New York's Webb Institute.

The Webb Institute, Glen Cove, N.Y., fielded a team consisting of Capt. Andrew Vogeler, team members Brandon Louis and Nicholas De Sherbinin, and their advisor Dean Matthew Werner. The team paid particular attention to ensuring passenger safety and operational efficiency in their design. Redundancy is core characteristic of the Webb design in various mechanical systems onboard the vessel, achieved by designing the mechanical systems to operate in one of two machinery spaces in the ship’s demi-hulls. These systems include the fuel oil system,  carbon dioxide fire suppression, the fire main, electrical power, and the steering gear control. The team also designed easy opened and removable windows to provide an easy escape from the vessel in the event of a major emergency

To keep the vessel construction affordable, the hull is comprised of uniplanar curves aimed at reducing manufacturing costs, while still maintaining efficiency and pleasing aesthetics. The team also planned to reduce the overall maintenance cost of vessel through the use of local shipyards and mechanics, as well as through the use of Cummins engines and generators.

The ferry makes use of a simple interior design, for reduced manufacturing costs compared to other catamaran ferries. The team also considered ease of operation by designing a midship loading station, which would allow the vessel to be docked at the existing piers. The transverse offset of the propellers relative to centerline increases maneuverability of vessel at low speed operation, while a raised pilothouse and strategic bench placement increases overall pilot visibility. The use of a closed circuit television system was considered to provide the pilothouse with exterior views of vessel during operation

The third-place design was submitted by a team at the Indian Institute of Technology.

The third-place design was submitted by a team at the Indian Institute of Technology.

The team from Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur consisted of  Capt. Saurav Agarwal, with classmates Harshdeep Singh and Rishank Kumar. Supervised by faculty advisor professor Vishwanath Nagarajan.

Their design for affordability and operational efficiency included considerable attention to the ease of maintenance with simplified access to machinery space and double hull. Efficiency was considered through propulsion optimization due to hull shape and bulbous bow. Safety considerations were paramount; the team suggested a smart system to detect leakage in the hull, in addition to smoke detection and fire suppression.

Their special innovation for sustainability and operational efficiency was the design of a solar panel installation above the roof of passenger deck for electrical power to minimize diesel consumption.