The hull will be fabricated from a single mold, while superstructure components will be constructed from large, flat panels measuring up to 42 x 12 feet. Once completed, the panels will be cut to create doors, windows and other openings. Turner plans to purchase a CNC waterjet cutting machine to save time and reduce noise. After they are cut to shape, the panels will be fitted into place and taped together with vinyl ester and carbon by hand. Front Street will use vacuum lifters to move the largest panels from the molds to the waterjet cutting machine and then onto the shop floor.

Workers at Brodrene Aa CFRP hull

Workers at Brodrene Aa in Norway fabricate a CFRP hull for a passenger ferry. Photo Credit: Brodrene Aa.

Arcadia Alliance’s CFRP ferries will be a novelty in an industry currently dependent on metal hulls. Turner acknowledges that the transition to CFRP hulled vessels will take time. “It took years for American ferries to go from steel to aluminum, and it’s going to take a lot of education to get that next step from aluminum to composites,” he says.

That was the case in Norway, according to Andre Ole, sales manager of Brodrene Aa. In the beginning, says Ole, Norwegian operators accustomed to aluminum ferries didn’t want to consider composites. He recalls hearing frequently, “Don’t come here and sell me any plastic boats!”

Now, attitudes have changed. “It has been a process, but now most of the operators are very satisfied and convinced that carbon fiber is a robust material,” says Ole. “They see the pure benefits of reductions in weight, fuel costs and CO2 emissions.”  Some operators, he adds, have purchased a CFRP ferry each year for the past 10 years.

Arcadia Alliance has begun to reach out to potential customers through trade shows, membership in the Passenger Vessel Association and calls to individual companies to obtain bid packages. A big part of selling in the U.S. will be educating operators about the benefits of carbon fiber hulled ferries – especially the enormous weight and fuel savings. The structural weight of CFRP ferries is 40 to 50 percent less than GFRP or aluminum ones, according to Ole. The CFRP superstructure makes it possible to use smaller engines and fuel tanks. Depending on the configuration, Ole says that CFRP ferries save their operators 20 to 40 percent in annual fuel costs.

Arcadia Alliance also will stress the benefits of reduced maintenance costs. Unlike aluminum ferries, Turner emphasizes, CFRP ferries “don’t fracture every time they hit a dock, don’t have weld issues, don’t crack and don’t require painting.”