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Small passenger craft in Asia: taking the challenge
Written by Administrator    Thursday, 11 June 2015 16:34    PDF Print E-mail
Small passenger craftin Asia: Taking the challenge Small passenger craft in Asia: taking the challenge

In April of 2014, the initial "Boat Yacht Thailand Conference" was held in Pattaya. This conference was an initiative of Dr Albert Nazarov of Albatross Marine Design, who had become concerned about the number of serious boating accidents in Thailand and sought an opportunity to do something about it. With support from a number of local boat builders, universities, colleges and government departments a successful conference focusing on boating safety was held. One of the early sponsors of the event was Austhai Marine Co, Ltd.

Following the conference both Dr Nazarov and Austhai Marine decided that while it was relatively easy to talk about an issue, for change to happen action was required also. The end result is that Albatross Marine Design have used their skills, experience and technical knowledge to design a boat suitable for the Thai market and Austhai Marine are bringing that boat into production.

In preparing the design brief, Dr Nazarov realized that it needed to be a design with which Thai operators were familiar and comfortable with. It would be pointless to design a safer boat if the end user would not purchase it for use. He first studied the statistics of accidents to identify causes and results, and in turn identified areas that can be improved. Three general directions related to a designer's responsibility were identified:

  • Formal safety covers formal compliance with known national and international standards. It is understood that in developing countries standards cannot be enforced all at once, but gradual implementation and awareness of these safety features is vital.
  • Functional safety involves following a group of agreed-upon practices, such as the proper design of the craft. They are not always covered by formal requirements, but good and bad features need to be acknowledged from the functional side.
  • Operator safety allowance is a safety factor built into the design to avoid accidents due to poor control of technical conditions or overloading of the craft.

These factors were all taken into account in the design process. In order to generate maximum market acceptance of a safer boat, it was decided very early in the design process that the boat needed to be a monohull, as this is the model with which most Thai operators are familiar, and the initial purchase price is lower, which is important in creating market acceptance.

Austhai Marine traditionally builds catamarans, all designed by Albert Nazarov. The newest model, a 15-metre passenger catamaran, was designed by Albatross Marine Design (AMD) and built by Aus-Thai Marine, with the first boat launched in Thailand at the end of 2013. Two of these boats are currently operating in Cambodia, one in Samui with three more are under construction.

Small passenger craft in Asia: taking the challenge

The craft is an open cockpit catamaran intended to carry tourists to nearby islands. The open architecture provides good airflow and rollup plastic curtains are used in case of rain. The passengers will be seated on the main deck on individual seats, 2-4-2 in row alignment. The total passenger capacity is 72 on the main deck level with an additional 15 on the flybridge. Two lavatories are fitted in the demihulls forward, just after the collision bulkheads. The protected area in the cabin can be used for seating and serving food.

The AT1500 possesses a typical planing catamaran hull shape with sharp chines, chine flats and a slightly wrapped bottom. The hulls are of symmetrical type, which proved to be efficient solution in pre-planing and early planing stages. The boat is powered by twin Yanmar 440HP engines and shafts with propellers. During sea trials it delivered top speeds of 27kts and comfortably cruised at 20-22kts.

The hull structure is designed in FRP with the application of HexaCor honeycomb sandwich panels for the sides, deck, wet deck and superstructure. The bottom is designed in coremat. In general, the boat's structure is robust and reliable for commercial use, without being very high-tech.

While its catamarans have been successful and appeal to a segment of the market, Austhai understands that cultural traditions are also a consideration and that market acceptance is dependent on this. Thus it agreed to divert from its traditional building of catamarans to introduce a safe monohull to its range. It hopes that those who use the traditional Thai speedboat concept will be attracted to a well-designed boat of similar styling with significantly improved safety features. In this way, it can make a positive contribution to improving the safety standards of boating n Thailand.

Small passenger craft in Asia: taking the challenge

Thus the monohull project is considered to be the answer for those wishing to maintain the traditional Thai so-called "speedboat" concept, but with modern safety approaches. This catalyzed the Austhai AT47 project –a safe and comfortable budgetary speedboat for the Southeast Asian market.

AT47 monohull passenger "speedboat". Main particulars: length of hull - 14.3m; beam – 3.8m, fully loaded displacement – 13000kg; engines – up to 3x350 HP; fuel – up to 800L; maximum speed – up to 33kts fully loaded; passenger capacity – 46.

Small passenger craft in Asia: taking the challenge

The AT47 complies to ISO Small Craft standards and the general layout and stability requirements of the IMO Code for High Speed Craft. The collision bulkhead at the bow, the multiple watertight flotation compartments, stability and damaged floatation all add safety. The maximum visibility from the coxswain is important to avoid collisions (60% of all accidents with small high-speed boats happen because of poor visibility). There's also a carefully engineered hull that limits vertical acceleration impacts experienced by passengers and crew thereby reducing discomfort and the chances of spinal injury. The designed seating layouts available offer the maximum safety for passengers and crew in the event of an accident.

The AT47 is available with various engine options including inboard diesel versions. The diesel versions of the AT47 offer various advantages that will increase the long-term profitability, though outboard engines have a significantly smaller initial purchase cost.

It can be seen that without significant expense and investment in formal classification, safety can be increased with just smart planning and design margins. The study of possible overload on craft's safety has been performed by the designer. This also relates to indirect safety features such as stability, structure, avoiding any possible space for crowding in undesired location, etc.

Serious research was undertaken by AMD for vertical accelerations and bottom loads on passenger craft, to develop efficient structural design and comfort. Measurements were conducted during sea trials of large number of boats, mainly catamarans. The results of these studies were utilized in the design of the AT47.

The initial response from potential customers has been encouraging, although some features that the designers and builders consider important have met with some resistance. One example is resistance to forward facing seating, which offers greater safety but has little appeal to Thai operators because of their familiarity with the locally-built Thai speedboats, which invariably have side seating. There does however seem to be general acceptance of the need to improve safety and other design features of the craft that enhance safety have been generally accepted.

The designers of AMD and Austhai Marine are looking forward to bringing more understanding and awareness to boat operators and government officials about ways to increase boater safety. It is not so much about extra costs, but more about knowledge and goodwill to improve. With this in mind, AMD has presented a number of technical papers (see Nazarov A., Jabtanom A., Charatsidis N. Small Passenger Boats and Water Taxis: Aesthetic and Functional Aspects of Design //Marine Design, RINA, 2014 - Coventry, UK) and seminars on small passenger boat safety. Austhai plans to have the AT47 in production by May of 2015.
Albatross Marine Design – www.amdesign.co.th
Austhai Marine Co., Ltd – www.austhaimarine.com