Thursday, March 11, 2021

New Rail Ferry Vessels Will be Bigger and Faster Than Incumbents

Chinese Built Vessels to Serve US - Mexican Market
Shipping News Feature

US – The second quarter of 2021 should see the arrival from China of two new rail ferries to serve on the Mobile, Alabama, and Coatzacoalcos, Mexico route, in a joint venture between Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) subsidiary CG Railway (CGR) and SEACOR Holdings Inc.

The new vessels will replace the incumbent ships on a service which has transported over 200,000 railcars in more than 1,400 sailings since inception in 2001. The trip across the Gulf currently takes approximately five days, or half the time required for the overland route. The new, 590-foot-long ferries are designed to carry 135 railcars each, up from 115 railcars on the existing ferries, with an expected top speed of 14 knots, up from seven knots. With their additional capacity, and faster speed enabling more sailings per month, the new vessels increase CGR’s potential annual carload capacity by 40%.

After launch from CSSC Huangpu Wenchong Shipbuilding Company in China, the vessels will be thoroughly tested, including undergoing sea trials to ensure all systems are operating as designed, before departing for the United States. The new ships are likely the first built with features designed to cope with a pandemic, including segregated passageways for local pilots and other visitors, as well as spaces with separate HVAC systems to quarantine crew.

G&W and SEACOR Holdings formed the rail-ferry joint venture that includes CG Railway LLC in 2017, combining the two companies’ unmatched experience in rail and marine transportation and logistics services. CGR President Hoffman Lijeron commented:

“We’re trying to anticipate all the potential scenarios we could have in the next 20 to 30 years. If there is anything we’ve learned from the past year, it’s the value of protecting our customers’ supply chains from potential disruptions. These innovative new vessels are purpose-built to provide increased reliability, speed and fuel efficiency and will materially expand the number of annual railcar spaces we can offer customers.

“Their capacity, efficient hull design, articulated rudders and modern, slow-speed engines will significantly reduce the vessels’ environmental footprint. In fact, compared with a traditional all-rail route from Mobile to Mexico City, shipping via the new CGR vessels and Ferromex is expected to provide a 44% reduction in CO2 emissions per tonne/mile versus the all-rail route.

“CGR offers tremendous potential for customers, connecting five Class I railroads and a G&W short line in Mobile to Ferromex in Coatzacoalcos, and I’m excited to lead its growth as a much faster alternative to the traditional land route. Our investment in constructing these two state-of-the-art vessels is a clear indication of our commitment to becoming the premium freight transportation provider between the United States, Canada and central and southern Mexico.”

Photo: the new rail ferries will be substantially larger, and faster, than the vessels currently used.