The Starlite Ferry

The “Starlite Ferry” of Batangas-based Starlite Ferries Inc. is notable because probably she is the first catamaran RORO ferry in the Philippines (contrary to the claim of Archipelago Philippine Ferries, operator of the new “FastCats” that they were the first). She arrived in the country in 1999 and she sails the Batangas-Calapan route.

Starlite Ferry ©Raymond Lapus

Catamaran ROROs, as catamarans, are twin-hulled but unlike the “SuperCats” they were designed to carry rolling cargo aside from passengers. As such, they are also ROPAXes but with twin hulls.

Starlite Ferry and SuperCat 25 ©Raymond Lapus

“Starlite Ferry” was built in Japan and she was first known as the “Asagumo” of Nippon Car Ferry K.K. She was built by Nippon Kokan Kabushiki Kaisha (NKK) in the Asano shipyard in 1971 with the IMO Number 7235422. “Asagumo” had a Length Over-all (LOA) of 41.4 meters, a Length Between Perpendiculars (LBP) of 39.8 meters and Breadth of 15.9 meters with a Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) of 605 tons. Her Deadweight Tons (DWT) was 178 with a rolling cargo capacity of about 610 lane-meters. In Japan, she was rated at 50 cars capacity. She was powered by two Daihatsu marine diesel engines with a total of 1,300 horseower giving her a service speed of 12.5 knots.

Starlite Ferry ©Raymond Lapus
Starlite Ferry Drydock ©Irvine Kinea

In 1990, she passed on to Sea-Com Corporation with the same name “Asagumo” and in 1992 her new owner was Marine Express Company but the name remained unchanged. In 1999, she came to the Philippines to become a ship of the new shipping company, Starlite Ferries, where she plied the Batangas-Calapan route. In the Philippines, her new Gross Tonnage became 574 tons with a Net Tonnage of 390 tons. Her rated passenger capacity is 572 persons divided into two classes, the non-airconditioned Economy and an airconditioned Tourist equipped with good reclining seats commonly called here as jet seater.

Starlite Ferry Jet Seater ©Raymond Lapus

“Starlite Ferry” has a narrow bridge on a deck above the passenger deck which looks more like a pilot house. She only has one passenger deck with the Tourist up front and below that is the car deck with space for 4 rows of trucks and buses. The ship is equipped with ramps at the bow and at the stern and both are still being used. One thing notable about her ramps is they are narrower than a conventional ROPAX of her size.

“Starlite Ferry” is still a reliable ship and it seems she still has many years of sailing ahead.

Starlite Ferry at Batangas Bay ©Nowell Alcancia

More Starlite Ferry photos:
Starlite Ferry Album by Raymond Lapus
Starlite Ferry Accommodation and Facilities

The SuperCat 1

The SuperCat 1 is the progenitor of the great SuperCat series which is still well-remembered today. However, unlike what most people think, this is not the same vessel as the latter SuperCat-I which people knew better because she lived longer.

SuperCat 1 didn’t live a long and charmed life. She is also not traceable from databases as her IMO Number is not known and Universal Aboitiz seemed to prefer that her past was simply buried. She came one time in April of 1994, gleaming, impressive and launched with much fanfare, as should be, being a technical advancement and being fastest in the route. However, she was not the first High Speed Craft (HSC) in the Batangas-Mindoro route as the Bullet Express 1 beat her by days (however she was not successful in the route and was largely forgotten in the area).

SuperCat 1 seems to be a Damen catamaran built in Singapore, probably of a fiberglass hull. She was a two-deck passenger HSC equipped with propellers having a speed of over 32 knots. She was capable of 45-minute transit time in the 24-nautical mile Batangas-Calapan route on a clear sea. However, I doubt if she has a motion dampening system as I noticed her tendency to ride like a horse on a rough sea.

SuperCat 1 ©Edison Sy

She was a snazzy ship when she came and with snappy service to boot which one might mistake for airline service then as this kind of service afloat a vessel was not common then. Everything was clean and orderly and the passengers were pampered. Compared to the slow, annoying and humid ROPAXes in the route, her comfort and service were miles and miles ahead. One does not arrive at the end of the route feeling tired and hassled.

With her appearance in the route, the dominant Viva Shipping Lines was forced to respond. Sometime in July of 1994, two fastcrafts appeared to compete with SuperCat 1. However, there was really no match as the Viva fastcrafts were slower and the service was notches below. Soon, an odor was also noticeable as the crew slept overnight on her humid cabin. The only thing going for the Viva fastcrafts was that her fares were significantly lower.

SuperCat 1 stern ©Edison Sy

A canard of “excessive” speed was thrown against SuperCat 1 by the humbled opposition and with that came the whispers of “dangerous”. Many thought this was part of the campaign for her route to be changed to the west of Isla Verde instead of the route between the Mag-asawang Pulo. It was already habagat and that route was known for rougher seas. Soon she was assigned this route and riding her, I had one of three most violent sea rides in my life where majority of the crew threw up and passengers have to be bodily lifted or assisted out of the vessel at the end of the voyage.

One day in September of 1994, SuperCat 1 stuck an underwater object while speeding near Isla Verde on the way to Calapan. She was wrecked and upon salvage the severity of the impact can be seen in the misalignment of the two hulls. Charges of “sabotage” were hurled against the main competition but none were proved. She was never repaired and soon she receded from memory.

Soon after, a new SuperCat-I came to replace her. She was the former Oregrund, a second-hand catamaran built in Sweden by Marinteknik Verkstads. In appearance she was much different from SuperCat 1. Most people thought she was the progenitor of the SuperCat series but they were wrong.

Oreground(future SuperCat-I) ©Penhahk

SuperCat 1 is forgotten now and this is just an article to set the record straight and so that she will also be remembered.