RoPax (RO-RO / Passenger) Ferry Vessels
In recent years, notably in 2012, the Chinese news media has given considerable publicity to the military applicationsn of RoPax (RO-RO / Passenger) Ferry Vessels. While the American military has made use of commercial standard cargo ships for vehicle transport, these RoPax vessels have no American counterpart. In China, their recent promimence is a function of both supply and demand. In the new century, at least several dozen such vessels have for the first time entered service in China. On the requirements side, such vessels are ideally suited for transported the troops and vehicles of second echelon follow-on forces that could occupy islands in the South China Sea, once the islands had been seized by China's new amphibious forces.
Roll-on/Roll-off [Ro-Ro] / Passenger ferries (RoPax ferries) are designed to carry passengers and freight. These ships typically have several decks for passengers [configured to austere cruise ship standards], atop several decks for vehicles. Typical accomondations range from about 1,000 to about 2,500 passengers, and several hundred vehicles. Unlike ferries, which have passenger plane like seating for passengers for short distance trips of only a few hours duration, Ro-Pax vessels have stateroom accomodations for passengers for trips which may take the better part of a day to complete.
The commercial viability of a RoPax service is very much a function of geography - in Europe, they flourish in the narrow waters of the Baltic and North Seas, and around Greece, but they are absent from most of the rest of the world. In North Asia, Ro-Pax services have sprung up in recent years in the narrow seas of the Bohai and Yellow Seas. The trip between Dalian and Yantai in China is about 3 to 7 hours, depending on the ship, while the trip to Weihai is 6 or 8 hours. The trip between Inchon in Korea is about 15-18 hrs from Dandong or Dalian in China, and about 25-28 hrs from Tianjin, China. The ships operate at all hours, so many of these trips are overnight journeys. Understanding the development of car ferries in China and neighboring countries is quite complicated, as the names of the numerous companies have changed in some cases, and there are variations in the spelling of ships' names, depending on sources.
The shortest way of connecting the center of China with modern Dalian in the north is by crossing the Bo Hai Strait, with Yantai and other harbors, also Tanggu, as ports of departure. The Bohai Sea is PR China's only semi-enclosed inland sea. It is surrounded by Liaodong Peninsula, the North China Plain and Shandong Peninsula. The Bohai Sea is a semienclosed coastal ocean that includes multiple islands and coastal inlets. The mean depth of the Bohai is about 20 m, with the deepest region of about 70 m located near the northern coast of the Bohai Strait. Bohai Bay (the innermost part of the Bohai Sea) is reported to be severely polluted. The Bohai Sea is connected to the Yellow Sea (on the south) through the Bohai Strait. The Bohai Sea region, covering the three coastal provinces of Liaoning, Hebei and Shandong, as well as the municipality of Tianjin, occupies only 6 percent of PR China's total land area, but according to 2002 statistics, contributes 23 percent (2,418 billion Yuan) of the country's total GDP (10,479 billion Yuan) and shelters 16 percent of the country's total population of more than 12 billion inhabitants.
From a regional economic perspective, the Bohai Sea region forms an integral part of a wider economic zone linking up portions of Inner Mongolia and Shanxi Province, which has direct impact on the Northeast Asia Economic Rim, Euro- Asia Land Bridge, and Southeast Asia Marine Economic Rim. As such, the Bohai Sea region is at the heart of multiple regional economic, environmental, military, natural and social systems with important values associated with these systems.
The Bohai Sea Economic Zone covers a broader area than the Bohai Sea region, as this includes Beijing and parts of Inner Mongolia and Shanxi Province. The economic zone is directly linked to the Northeast Asia Economic Rim, Euro-Asia Land Bridge, and Southeast Asia Marine Economic Rim. Among these economically diversified and fast-growing areas, the Bohai Sea region undoubtedly plays a pivotal role in the promotion of inter-regional interaction in social and economic development, environment and natural resources.
At the turn of the century the largest ferries on the Bo Hai Strait were the ro-pax vessels "Bang Chui Dao" and "Hai Yang Dao" (1995/15,560gt, built in the Netherlands) of Dalian Marine Transport, a COSCO subsidiary. From 2001 the ships were registered along with consorts for the China Shipping Passenger Liner Co., operating mainly between Yantai and Dalian. The "Hu Luo Dao" and "Pu Duo Dao", half-sisters of the Dutch-built ro-pax vessels, and four ships of an extended version followed from Chinese shipyards. An older ship, the "Chiang Chin Dao" (1982/17,961gt, the former "El Greco", then "Capo Sandalo" of Italy), served the Weihai-Dalian route, another way across the Bo Hai Strait.
On the Weihai-Dalian route, Weihai Haida Passenger Transport introduced the "Sheng Sheng I" (2006/10,347gt). Zhong Tie Bo Hai took up freight train conveyance between Yantai and Lushun [the former Port Arthur] in 2006 with the "Zhong Tie Bo Hai 1 Hao". Hi-speed services on the Yantai-Dalian route were started by Dalian Yuan Feng Ferry and by the Dalian Passenger Shipping Co.
Nearly twenty routes to South Korea are served by a dozen companies. The traditional Korean harbor is Inchon, protected against tides by locks. Suburban trains provide a connection with the capital Seoul, about 40km inland. A new Inchon International Seaport and a 27km long bridge for connecting the new Incheon International Airport have been built. During the first decade of the new century, among the largest ships was the 26,463-ton "Tien Ren" (ex "Blue Zephyr") of Tianjin-Incheon International, employed between Xingang and Incheon on the longest route. Other routes to the Korean west coast, listed by K. Brogren, were Rizhao - Incheon by KC Line, Shidao - Incheon by Huadong Ferry, Rong Cheng - Pyoengtaek by Dalong Ferry and Dalian - Incheon by Dalian Ferry with the "Da-In" (1988/12,365gt), the former "Venilia" of Japanese origin.
The 195.80 meter M/S Visby was designed by Knud E Hansen of Copenhagen, Denmark for Guangzhou Shipyard International (GSI) and was built for Gotlandsbolaget, Sweden. The order represented a major breakthrough for GSI into the passenger vessel market as the order was the first in this field. The vessel and the sister vessel M/S Gotland, designed to carry 1500 passengers and with a trailer lane length 1600 meters, were delivered in 2003. Visby (5) was built Guangzhou Shipyard International Co. Ltd, China for Rederi Ab Gotland. She entered service with Destination Gotland in March 2003 between Visby-Oskarshamn/Nynäshamn. Gotland and Visby are popular names for the Destination Gotland line, and the names seem to be re-assigned to whatever the newest ships are in service with the Destination Gotland line. The SF 700 - HSC Gotlandia, built in 1999, was named Gotland for four years, until it was renamed in 2003 to make way for for the SF 1500 - M/S Gotland.
On December 18, 2004, a new train ferry started construction in Xingang Shipyard of Tianjin City. The vessel would be the first ship using full electric power propulsion system, and it will shorten the length of the journey between Yantai and Dalian, two cities across Bohai Bay, by about 1,000km. The ferry can carry 480 passengers, 50 trains, 50 trucks and 25 cars. The first vessel was completed in July 26, 2006, and the seconed was delivered before 2007.
"Yuehai Railway 1" / "Yuehaitie No.1", China's first transoceanic train ferryboat, arrived in the Qiongzhou Straits on 25 November 2002, where it operated as a transportation link between railways in Guangdong and Hainan provinces. The ferryboat left the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, traversing the Taiwan Straits en route to its destination. The country's first transoceanic train ferry commenced operation on December 28. The ferryboat, which was built at a cost of 210 million yuan (US$25 million), was funded by the Yuehai Railway Co., Ltd., designed by the No.708 Ship-building Industry Institute of China, and built by the Jiangnan Shipyard. The ferryboat, boasting a capacity of 12,400 tons and a minimal speed of 15 nautical miles per hour, is 165.4 meters in length and 22.6 meters in width. It is capable of carrying either 4,200 tons of locomotives and cars, 40 cargo carriers or 18 passenger compartments and 1,360 passengers.
The first ferry ship to serve China's longest ferry railway across the Bohai Straits took water in Tianjin in January 2006 and was officially delivered in July 2006. The ship, named "China Railway Bohai No.1", was a milestone in China's ferry ship manufacturing industry, according to Gao Xuehu, head of the Tianjin Xingang shipbuilding plant, the ship's builder. The ferry, designed to withstand gale-force winds, is 182.6 meters long, 24.8 meters wide and weighs 22,700 dead weight tonnages (dwt). The ship was designed to accommodate trains, motor vehicles, as well as passengers. In a single journey, the ship can carry a 4,000-tons freight train with 50 carriages, or 50 units of 20-ton vehicles, or 25-units cars, or 480 passengers. Currently, the overland railway journey covered 1,801 kilometers from Yantai to Dalian. The water route shortens this distance to 159.8 kilometers. Two such ships were built for ferry service on the waterway. Construction of the first ferry ship started on December 18, 2004 in Tianjin. And construction of the second ship started in July 2005, and was delivered in December 2006.
A new type ropax, used for Yantai-Dalian line, was designed in 2004 by SDARI for Weihai Haida shipping company. The new vessel, with 120 meters long, 20.4 meters wide and 5 meters draft, will has a capacity for up to 40 trucks & trailers. Weihai Haida Passenger Transport Co.,Ltd. is the exclusive operator on the route between the major cities of Weihai and Dalian on opposite sides of the Bohai strait in North East China where it undertakes a Ropax service. The city of Weihai and its hinterland have a fast-developing and attractive seaside location and is currently experiencing growing numbers of tourists from northern China, especially from around the Dalian area.
The company has a long-term relationship with Shandong Huanghai Shipbuilding Co.,Ltd shipyard that has seen the construction of eight Ropax ferries with MAN four-stroke propulsion systems. As of 2012 the company had two vessels in its fleet operating on the route - the Xin Shen Shen and Shen Shen 1. The Xin Shen Shen was shortly due to exit service.
A passenger ship named Sheng Sheng 1 made her maiden voyage at Weihai, east China's Shandong Province, July 11, 2006. The 120-meter-long and 20.4-meter-wide ro-ro passenger ship has a capacity of 1026 passengers and 123 cars.
In 2009 a 2000 Lane-meter Ro-Pax vessel was designed as highly flexible ro-pax vessel for Guangzhou Shipyard International, Guangzhou in China. The 168 meter long vessel, which as of 2012 remained unbuilt, was intended for world-wide service, with trailer lane length of 2000 meters and a capacity of 400 passengers.
In early 2012 Chinese Weihai Haida Ferry Co. placed an order for a 2,200-passenger/1100-lane-metre Ropax ferry featuring a Man Diesel & Turbo propulsion package. The regional increase in tourism is an important driver for the order of the ferry. The newbuilding will be constructed at the local Huanghai shipyard and will be called Shen Shen 2. The new ferry will be capable of carrying its 2,200 passengers at a design speed of 18 knots. Along with the optimised propulsion package, Weihai Haida has also ordered engine spare-parts from MAN PrimeServ, MAN Diesel & Turbo’s after-sales division. It will feature a twin-screw propulsion plant comprising two well-proven MAN 9L32/40 (IMO Tier-II compliant) four-stroke engines manufactured by MAN Diesel & Turbo in Augsburg (Germany), two Renk single-reduction gearboxes with PTO shaft to drive alternators, and two MAN CP propellers using the new, high efficiency type Alpha VBS1020 Mk 5 design. The Alphatronic 2000 has been designated as propulsion control system. MAN Diesel & Turbo Frederikshavn (Denmark) will support the integration of the full propulsion package.
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