7 June 2019

The large RoPax industry segment saw a peak in demand around thirty – forty years ago – roughly the lifespan of this type of vessel. This means that soon many of these ships will be coming to the end of their service and will be earmarked for replacement. Damen intends to use its experience in shipbuilding, coupled with new facilities to offer the marketplace a superior solution as part of its new Cruise, RoPax and Offshore (CRO) division.

Mangalia gets underway

Damen sales director RoPax and RoRo Chiel de Leeuw explains the thinking behind Damen’s move into the production of RoPax vessels.

“With this, we are able to fully service this sector,” explains Chiel. “Our newbuild activities are added to a portfolio that already includes global services and repair, maintenance, refit and conversion, which means we will now serve our clients throughout the full lifecycle of their vessels.

“With our commencing operations in Mangalia, the timing is perfect for this move. The new facilities are ideal for the construction of large, complex RoPax vessels, with docks as wide as 60 metres, a total of three graven drydocks, 1.6 kilometres of berthing space and lots of crane capacity and workshops distributed over approximately 1 million square metres.”

The new venture has been quick to secure its first contract and the Mangalia yard is all set to begin work on two 148-metre LNG- hybrid RoRo vessels for Seaspan Ferries Corporation in Canada.

Clean contracts

“As with many projects that Damen is working on these days, sustainability is a keen focus on these vessels. They will feature LNG hybrid propulsion, reducing NOx and SOx emissions to a minimum, while onboard batteries will optimise energy storage and usage when the engines are not fully loaded,” states Huib Slings, product director RoPax and RoRo.

Standardised, but different

It is Damen’s intention to offer engineered-to-order vessels for this segment, due to the many variables experienced by the sector. Huib oversees product design and definition by translating technical requirements from vessel owners into product specifications and by facilitating the engineering-to-order process. He explains:

“Specificity plays a role in preparing each vessel for optimal performance according to the route of its operation. Damen operates as a full service provider, focussing on developing a better design for a specific route in order to lower the cost of ownership over the lifetime of each vessel. With variables such as route length, water depth and swell, typical weather conditions and tidal forces all contributing to the demands on a vessel, set routes can provide some predictability as a basis for calculating the most efficient design for a vessel.”

However, as Chiel explains, this in no way represents a departure from Damen’s philosophy of standardised shipbuilding.

“For example, we will continue to use standardised processes, components and propulsion lines, guaranteeing reliable performance and easy, quick maintainability. So, while the vessel itself may not be standard, the construction will be, ensuring efficient production and maximum project control.

"Damen’s approach to shipbuilding is rooted in standardisation, it’s how we offer a proven concept, cost effectively and with record delivery times."

The approach Damen is taking to market with its new RoPax and RoRo initiative, as with cruise and offshore, varies somewhat from its usual methods of operation. Instead of its usual geographical approach with regionally-focussed commercial managers, with these segments Damen is taking a product-centred perspective.

“The complexity of such large, bespoke projects demands a long-term focus and the development of an in-depth understanding of the market and customer’s business,” explains Chiel.

Chiel was well positioned to support the move, having previously worked as sales manager for north west Europe where his Scandinavian focus brought him into contact with numerous ferry projects.

The new team is based at Damen Shipbuilding Rotterdam, in the Port of Rotterdam, alongside their fellow CRO colleagues.

“In order to quickly and effectively establish a presence in the marketplace, we’ve assigned a team to quickly build a network and a knowledge base. The department will be supported by Damen’s global infrastructure, synergising knowledge within the Damen Group and the wider shipbuilding industry.

“Given the nature of the order specifications, each project is time-consuming and requires a lot of project management work, collaboration and coordination. The process of building each project together with designers, engineers and customers, is intense and time-consuming, and requires a certain degree of initial investment.

“To meet the demands of the work, the RoPax Product Management Team, responsible for product development, is rapidly growing, drawing talent from many countries including Spain, Argentina and Finland,” says Huib.

The complex process of product development comprises myriad input streams such as mobilisation of internal departments on Research and Development, external validation of designs, project planning and coordination, support of the whole tender process, and production of cost-price calculations. The team is in direct contact with the shipyard in Mangalia and with suppliers around the world, developing the most technically appropriate proposal to create the most efficient product definition tailored to the requirements of each client for each specific route.

RoPax and RoRo repair and services

Damen has served the RoPax and RoRo market previously, having constructed vessels upwards of 100 metres on numerous occasions at Damen Shipyards Galati, in Romania. Additionally, the shipyards group operated numerous, strategically-located ship repair yards from which is already serves the RoPax and RoRo market with repair and maintenance services.

“Many of our repair yards are ideally situated to serve our clients’ requirements,” says Chiel. “Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque and Damen Shiprepair Brest sit close to cross-channel ferry routes, for example, while Damen Verolme Rotterdam, Damen Shiprepair Rotterdam and Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam are well located for North Sea services.”

“Backed up by our Harbour & Voyage Repair team and our international network of Service Hubs, along with globally available service engineers, we are confidently able to offer support to our clients, wherever they are in the world at whatever stage of their vessels’ lifecycle.”

Financing ferries

Damen Customer Finance, together with the customer, aims to find the most suitable financing solution. A large, complex vessel like a RoRo or RoPax vessel is a capitally-intensive project, for which the correct financing approach can make all the difference, whether it is related to a promising business model or is supported by a government entity. To that end, Damen closely cooperates with Atradius Dutch State Business, the Export Credit Agency of the Netherlands with an AAA-rating. It should ease discussions to find a financing solution that is beneficial to the client’s needs. For the RoPax market, Damen has assigned Customer Finance manager Herman van Bueren to support clients. “We’ve over 40 years’ experience in enabling our clients to arrange attractive, tailored financing packages. During that time we have developed long-standing relationships with national and international commercial banks, export credit agencies, investors and multilateral institutions.”

Herman’s outlook is very positive. “The current legislative climate is favourable for the financing of sustainable vessels,” he says. “As Damen applies its expertise in sustainability to the propulsion of its RoPax vessels, this encourages more favourable terms from financiers, and the benefits end up in the pockets of the clients.”

Danish - Dutch design duo

Via Damen Shipyards Group member, Denmark-based KNUD E. HANSEN, Damen is able to offer a design team well versed in such vessels. KNUD E. HANSEN has extensive experience in the design of RoPax vessels.

Damen’s relationship with the accomplished design company goes back a number of years, and has borne products from numerous collaborations such as Ice Class ferries for the Canadian government. The acquisition of the yard in Mangalia offers both parties the chance to collaborate on larger vessels, in which KNUD E. HANSEN’s experience and expertise will play a vital role.

“KNUD E. HANSEN has a long track record in providing newbuild as well as refi t designs to all sectors of the maritime industry, but it is most renowned for its work on passenger vessels,” says Chiel. “We are very fortunate to have such an experienced player as our partner for this new venture.”


Damen participates in numerous R&D and innovation programmes, both in-house and in collaboration with industry partners. Amongst these programmes are several that aim at innovating for the RoRo and RoPax segment.

This includes, for example, the steps Damen is taking towards greater sustainability in the maritime industry. Increasing environmental awareness, combined with increasingly stringent regulations is a further stimulus for new ferries. To these ends, Damen is working towards several solutions, across a broad spectrum, including ballast water treatment systems, an air cavitation system, emissions scrubbers, electric and LNG propulsions systems.

Damen is also working on remote monitoring, by which condition-based maintenance can be carried out to ensure maximum uptime. Furthermore, studying AIS information contributes to developing the most efficient design as well as efficient sailing, further increasing sustainability.

The shipyard group’s work with hardware in the loop (HIL) has already demonstrated its effectiveness in different sectors, including offshore, allowing testing to take place digitally before investment in real world construction.


Fast RoPax Ferry
Roll-On Roll-Off
Damen Shipyards Galati
Damen Shipyards Mangalia
Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque
Damen Shiprepair Brest
Damen Verolme Rotterdam
Damen Shiprepair Rotterdam
Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam
Seaspan Ferries Corporation


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