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LNG is considered the maritime fuel of the future in the Baltic Sea, especially by passenger shipping companies. However, even with the 2015 0.1% Sulphur limit of the Emission Control Area, its development has been slow as most have opted to use marine diesel oil (MDO) while cargo operators have gone for scrubbers. So it was with great fanfare that the introduction of Megastar was a mass media event for its maiden voyage on 29 January.


162639 megastar

(© Tallink)


At 212 metres long and 49,200GT, the ship became the largest fast ferry in the world when delivered from Meyer Turku before starting service on Tallinn-Helsinki route as one of two Tallink Shuttle vessels. The ship has been specifically designed for the two-hour voyage at 27 knots between the two capitals, which is reckoned to be the world’s second biggest international ferry route with over 8 million passengers, 1.25 million cars and 200,000 ro-ro cargo units annually - and still growing.

Turku was also the yard that delivered currently the world’s largest LNG passenger ship in 2013, the 59,000GT cruise ferry Viking Grace that sails Turku-Stockholm twice daily. That LNG know-how and experience was one of the reasons that the Meyer family took over the Turku yard and has made a success of it since, mainly building cruise ships with three on order to use LNG.

Like Viking Grace, Megastar is crammed with the latest technological innovations and claims several superlatives. Installed power totals 45,600kW supplied by five main engines: three Wärtsilä 12V50 DF and  two 6L50 DF  – denoting dual fuel. Thus Megastar has 13% or 6.9kW propulsion power less than its route partner Star which weighs in at at 36,200GT, but achieves the same speed and delivers over 700 passengers and 300 cars more*.

Eesti Gaas will be the LNG supplier trucking the fuel from Russia’s new Gazprom LNG terminal at Pskov, which is just 350 kilometres from Tallinn. In Helsinki, Skangas will supply fuel to the ship when docked at West Harbour by truck too. Viking Grace bunkers in Stockholm with Norwegian LNG using a converted local ferry.  For safety reasons, Megastar’s bunkering will be done during the night, taking 4 hours every two days using a 1000 litre/hour cryogenic pump. “Energy consumption is the same as for our other ships, except we now count in megawatts not tons,” said Captain Tarvi-Carlos Tuulik, Tallink’s Technical Director.

LNG emits almost zero SOx and particles, while cutting NOx by 85% and CO2 by 25% as it is almost pure methanol. It is stored at -160C where its volume is 600 times less than when a gas. On Megastar the LNG is stored in two stainless steel tanks (cap: 600m³) located amidships in the ship's bowels made by specialist manufacturer Linde Group in Sweden. If there is a disruption in supply, the engines can switch to MDO seamlessly.


162074 megastar tallink

(© John Pagni)


Tuulik was also pleased to explain Megastar’s Safe Return To Port ability, which incidentally makes her the largest lifeboat ever as the vessel only has four rescue craft for emergency situations. This means in the event of a fire for example, the vessel will be able to make the nearest port due to independent propulsion, steering, navigation, fuel, communications and fire systems. If sinking, all aboard (up to 4,000) can evacuated by chute onto huge rafts via its Marine Evacuations System (MES), extremely unlikely though that scenario is.

To get the optimal hull shape, extensive testing finally produced the chosen shape by Meyer Turku which is more rigid, but cuts vibration and overload. Megastar is very quiet and smooth and only by looking outside is it possible to realise the ship is in motion and also noticeable is the lack of smoke and rumble when the engines are fired up.  Its hull is in fact unique being the first of its kind and has exceeded its design expectations with smaller wave-making.

The twin five-bladed controlled pitch propellers (CPP) are electric powered and fixed behind the rudders for additional manoeuvrability and less resistance in icy conditions. Megastar’s 1A ice classification translates into its ability to keep operating in all Baltic ice conditions. Two thrusters at the bow and stern assist sideways movement too.

Automation is omnipresent. Over 10,000 sensors detect conditions aboard allowing for the most effective engine output and even which route to take according to the payloads for that sailing and other conditions. Heating and ventilation are recycled as much as is feasibly possible, which with the materials chosen for their safety and weight helps cut fuel consumption. Megastar’s power output is 36% less than Star’s at under 1kw/GT.

Environmentally, Megastar has a Green Passport classifying all materials used in construction to enable recycling when the ship’s lifecycle ends – estimated at 50-60 years. On a more short-term basis, all waste is separated into paper, glass, metal and plastic bins for shoreside handling and disposal.

Passengers facilties

Veterans of maritime transport will be surprised by Megastar’s layout. For travellers there are a number of sitting, eating and drinking choices reflected in the price. Diners have the Delight Buffet at the bow which includes all drinks even draught beer and wine that seats 474. Chef’s Kitchen is in a corner of the buffet area where an á la carte menu offers local produce cooked in an open kitchen in front of the patron. Its capacity for 60 is flexible according to demand.

Also on Deck 9 are the Victory Bar and Sea Pub (which has a Winter Garden) with TV and music entertainment, drinks and snacks plus Fast Lane and Burger King which are both fast food service points. Coffee & Co on deck 8 explains itself with Maine Gallery an open seating area served by another self-service café. A 100m² children’s playroom is equipped with toys, screens and a playhouse for younger kids, older ones have a play station section. On Deck 7 pets have their own corner in the garage parking.

For travellers the choice is from Business, Comfort, Seating and Drivers Lounges. The first includes food and all beverages, the second cold food and soft drinks, Seating is self-explanatory and drivers get business service but no alcoholic drinks. All new Tallink ships have always had free wifi throughout. Noticeably absent is a night club-show-dance bar. Lastly in summer, the top sun deck with a bar will be another option despite the helipad between the funnel and bridge.


162075 megastar tallink

(© John Pagni)

162079 megastar tallink

(© John Pagni)

162081 megastar tallink

(© John Pagni)


Rolling cargo capacity totals 3,653 lane metres which can take 800 cars or more preferably from Tallink's viewpoint: 300 cars and 110 truck/trailers. The latter are on deck 3 with the sections near to the exit/entry doors fore and aft  on the deck above also available. Most of decks 5, 6 and 7 are for cars with hoistable sections on deck 3 to make a temporary deck 4.

Megastar however is the first to have 'garage parking on deck 7. Here 100 cars, for an extra payment, have their own shopping centre-like parking spots marked out and owners and passengers can access their vehicles during the voyage for loading up shopping for example. Wide gaps between the cars enables evacuation in two minutes if required.


162077 megastar tallink

(© John Pagni)


As Megastar is just 60 minutes in port, the two levels exit-entries for passengers and vehicles needed special ramps to be built for the latter and double gangways for those on foot only. Both ports have invested in new facilities, Port of Helsinki's will open late-February. But PoH is ahead of its twin port with its automated mooring system where the hull is kept stable by vacuum pads that can keep the ship dockside in winds of 17m/second.

Accommodation & Shopping

Tallink Shuttle makes seven crossover sailings daily  taking just 120 minutes from port to port, so aboard Megastar it was decided based on experience that demand for cabins would be tiny, so there are only a few: just 47 for passengers and 105 for the 176 crew on decks10 and 11. Apart from the officers working areas, most offer minimal comfort. There is a medical cabin too.

Naturally travel retail is a major revenue source ´for those wanting to take advantage of the price difference between Nordic Finland and Continental Estonia. The biggest shopping complex on the Baltic Sea is located on two levels at the stern. Occupying 2,800m and selling a wide range of products, the Traveller Superstore even has Q-shopping to speed up the process of checking out and paying.


162092 megastar tallink

(© John Pagni)


Normally when a new ship enters a route, there is a spike in bookings as people want to see and experience the new vessel – as was the case with Viking Grace when it entered service and Viking Line’s share on Turku-Stockholm spiked at 60% for a while. Tallink hopes that the same phenomenon will be repeated for Helsinki-Tallinn and help pay back the €230M Megastar cost, though the EU contributed €4.8M via the CEF-MotS fund. Financing was 20% from the company’s cash reserves and the rest a 12-year loan from Nordea.

Both Tallink and Meyer Werft agreed that during its sea trials the vessel exceeded all its design and contractual specifications not only those of the hull. Jan Meyer, CEO Meyer Turku stated “The exceptional sea trials, fuel consumption was better than we estimated and this for a vessel that was built in less than two years from contract signing to delivery.”

Tallink profile:

2015: Sales: €945M, Pax: 8,976,226; EBITDA: €181M, Net profit: €59M; employees: 6,835

* Megastar has 3,653 lane metres, which can accommodate a maximum 110 trucks/trailers + 300 cars, depending on demand.

John Pagni, in Helsinki for Mer et Marine


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