HERO-Class Car Carrier Debuts at U.S. Ports

Thalatta at Northwest Seaport Alliance's East Blair One terminal in Tacoma.

Published Aug 14, 2016 5:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines’ newest HERO-class Ro-Ro Thalatta has made its maiden voyage through the widened Panama Canal and started servicing key U.S. ports.

The vessel was greeted at the Port of Hueneme earlier this month, and was the port’s first Post-Panamax ship. It has also docked at The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s East Blair One terminal in Tacoma last week. 

The HERO class is a form of hybrid between a RoRo vessel and a Pure Car and Truck Carrier (PCTC), offering the flexibility of a RoRo carrier combined with the lightness of a PCTC.

One of the key design goals was to improve capacity and flexibility and accommodate a much greater and wider variety of cargo. Consequently the new HERO vessel includes liftable decks that allow for multiple configurations.

Another key requirement from many stakeholders, which is also in line with WWL’s ambitions for a zero emissions future, is the need to reduce the vessel’s carbon footprint. To this end, the HERO class includes a number of innovations to help reduce fuel consumption and its environmental impact as well help it operate more efficiently in a wider range of conditions. For example, their Rolls-Royce Promas rudder system decreases drag and improve surrounding water flow, causing less strain on the engine. In addition, the novel bow design reduces wave resistance and by extension overall fuel consumption.  

The post panamax dimensions, significantly wider than previous vessels, means the vessels are inherently more stable. Thus they require less ballast water, reducing the invasive species risks and making a positive contribution to efficiency.

The HERO class has been designed to support WWL’s zero damage cargo quality objective. During loading and unloading, a ship might be compared to a parking garage, and WWL wanted to ensure that maneuvering inside it would be as easy and risk-free as possible. To this end, the number of pillars in the ship has been limited, while their design is intended to be as non-obstructive as possible. Further, the width of the stern ramp has been extended from the standard seven to 12 meters to allow for more efficient and safer flow of traffic on and off the ship.

The first HERO vessel, Thermopylae, was delivered early in 2015. The ship is fitted with a Wärtsilä hybrid scrubber that allows the main engine to be run on heavy fuel oil while reducing sulfur emissions to below 0.1 percent in compliance with ECA requirements. This system removes over 70 percent of particulate matter and significantly reduces NOx emissions. 

The hybrid scrubber is run in closed-loop mode while in port, using fresh water to remove the impurities from the exhaust gas. In open-loop mode at sea, it uses sea water and re-oxygenates the water before discharge overboard.

The vessel’s engine is an electronically-controlled, MAN B&W S60ME-C8 two-stroke main engine, and it is coupled to a single, fixed pitch propeller. A single bow thruster improves maneuverability.

The Thalatta joined the Thermopylae in April 2015 and has been followed by sister ships Theben and Themis. As with Thermopylae, the Thalatta was built at the Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea.

Thalatta is the second of eight HERO Post-Pana Panamax vessels that commenced service for WWL in 2015. The final ship is expected to be introduced in 2017.  

Themis is anticipated to arrive at both ports this September.


Length: 199.99 meters (650 feet)
Width: 36.5 meters (120 feet)
Ramp capacity: 320 tons and 12 meters (40 feet) wide
Main deck height: 6.5 meters (21 feet)
Speed: 10 - 20 knots