2014 – Argentina’s 99 m Catamaran Ferry Burns Natural Gas

INCAT Design Sets New Standard   Copyright Peter Marsh

Big catamaran ferries have always struggled to make headway in the Northwest, and the memory of the fast ferry fiasco in British Columbia is still fresh. But at the southern end of the Americas, fast ferries are an integral part of the transport system. Buquebus, the company that runs the ferry service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo across the River Plate will soon welcome the world’s most advanced fast ferry to its busy service between the capital cities of Argentina and Uruguay.

The new vessel is a 99 m wavepiercer built by Incat, the Australian builder that pioneered the fast catamaran ferry in the 1980s. Hull 069 from the Tasmania yard is notable for being the world’s first high speed passenger Ro-Ro ship powered by gas turbines burning LNG (Liquified Natural Gas). “It will be the fastest, environmentally cleanest, most efficient, high speed ferry in the world,”said Incat Chairman Robert Clifford. The capacity will be over 1000 passengers and 153 cars, with a projected lightship speed of 53 knots, and an operating speed of 50 knots, allowing it to compete with airline service between Uruguay and Argentina.

It will feature the first installation of LNG-powered dual-fuel engines in an Incat high speed ferry, and the first high speed craft built under the HSC code to be powered by gas turbines using LNG as the primary fuel and marine distillate for standby and ancillary use. Buquebus have long experience with marine gas turbines, having operated the turbine-powered 77 m Luciano Federico, 45 m Patricia Olivia II and the 45 m Thomas Edison since the late 1990s.

They are the biggest travel operator in South America’s southern cone with a large fleet of fast craft, plus airline and tourist services. This is their eighth Incat, following in the wake of an Incat 91-meter that set a record for the fastest Atlantic eastbound crossing on the 3,125  mile run from Manhattan to Tarifa, Spain in 3 days 7 hours 54 minutes at an average speed of 38.8  knots. That made this the first passenger ship to cover more than 1,000 miles in 24 hours.

The passenger cabin on the new ferry will include tourist, business and first class seating, and with a duty-free shop covering over 1000 square meters–the largest shopping area ever installed on a fast ferry.


Buquebus was founded by Juan Carlos Lopez Mena in 1980 to provide ferry service across the Rde la Plata between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Colonia, Uruguay. In its first year, the company carried 100,000 passengers on a single vessel, the 66.5 m Ciudad de Colonia, built in 1938.

In the 1980s, as the regional MERCOSUR economy grew, the company expanded rapidly to meet the increasing demand for rapid transit between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The 40 m 235-passenger fast catamaran Flecha De Buenos Aires and the 82 m 1200-passenger catamaran cruiser Eladia Isabel arrived in 1986 and are still in service.

The most significant development came in the early 1990s, when Buquebus began adding all-aluminum high-capacity fast ferries beginning with the first generation Incat 74 m wavepiercer Atlantic III in 1993; the 96 m, 37-knot monohull Albayzin from the Bazaan shipyard (now Navantia) in Spain in 1994; the 70 m, 50-knot Incat catamaran Juan Patricio in 1995; and the 125 m, 42-knot monohull Silvia Ana also from Bazaan in 1996.

P.S. I traveled to Uruguay and back on one of the slower boats–and watched a fast Buquebus catamaran zoom by at high speed!


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