Clipper build progresses
‘MJ’ took a trip over the Solent to check progress on MBNA Thames Clippers’ new 38m high speed catamaran in build at Wight Shipyard.
When we visited, the hull was shot blasted ready for primer, engines beds were being prepared for the twin Scanias and much of the passenger area insulation had been fitted.
The addition of Venus Clipper marks another impressive milestone of London’s river bus operator and will add flexibility across its busy network of routes in what will be its 20th year of serving the capital’s commuters and visitors.
Sean Collins, CEO and co-founder of MBNA Thames Clippers, said: “Everyone in the business is very excited about Venus Clipper and what it represents. I never would have believed when we started out that MBNA Thames Clippers would get to where it is today – a vital cog in London’s transport infrastructure.
“Earlier this year we celebrated carrying our 40 millionth customer – not bad for a business that had just 80 passengers on its first day back in 1999. It proves that the demand for river transport is there and we are only scratching the surface when it comes to moving people around the capital.”
With a capacity of 222 passengers Venus Clipper has been designed with commuters in mind, with 50 more seats on board than its sister Hunt-class vessels Mercury Clipper and Jupiter Clipper, which joined the fleet in summer 2017. The new boat also features more tables, making it more adaptable for specialist charters and commuters alike.
The contract with Wight Shipyard Co to build Venus Clipper continues a long-running association between the two businesses and makes a significant economic contribution. In all, more than 100 businesses in the Southeast region are involved in the delivery supply chain.
Venus Clipper represents a £3.8 million investment for MBNA Thames Clippers and should enable the river bus service to carry an additional 300,000 passengers annually. The vessel will be used across the operator’s six routes depending on demand, as well as to support specialist charters and cruise transfer requirements for the Central London Moorings.
This follows significant spend to improve passenger experience and accessibility to its services in recent years. Work has included an extension to the pier at Westminster in 2016 and an all-new pier at Battersea Power Station in 2017 (with 15 minute journey times to Central London). Future developments include a new pier at Royal Wharf due in 2019.
The business now operates four major commuter services and two associated tourist routes, and is recognised as one of the quickest and easiest routes in and out of London’s business districts in the West End, City and Canary Wharf. MBNA Thames Clippers’ six river bus routes call at 22 piers across London, connecting Putney in the west with Woolwich in the east, with integrated Oyster and Contactless payments allowing for easy Pay As You Go travel.
MBNA Thames Clippers’ further boosted its role on the river earlier this year when it won the five-year contract to manage the Central London Cruise Moorings, alongside the Port of Tilbury. The deal sees the joint venture taking over responsibility for the smooth day-to-day operations of three moorings – Greenwich Ship Tier, Tower Bridge Upper and George’s Stair Tier – on behalf of the Port of London. The contract includes transporting cruise passengers from their ships to the heart of London.
The build represents a continuation of a long tradition of lightweight aluminium boatbuilding on the Isle of Wight, which has encompassed flying boats and hovercraft as well as many fast ferries, several for MBNA Thames Clippers over the years.
James Day, Principal Naval Architect at Wight Shipyard explained some of the tricks of the trade that they had built up over the years. “We use two grades of aluminium with different tensile strengths for the beams and the plating. This allows us to minimise scantlings, and hence weight. The passenger deck side panels are only 2mm thick, a plate that would warp unacceptably if welded, so we actually rivet these parts on.”
Venus Clipper will be the 19th vessel in the company’s fleet of fast ferries when it launches in the first-quarter of 2019.
By Jake Frith
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