Due to its importance to international trade, the size of the Panama Canal has long been a design constraint when it comes to shipping vessels. With wider locks currently under construction, however, WWL decided to begin designing a new RoRo carrier that was not only bigger, but also better adapted to today’s industry demands and customer needs.

“Now that we have the freedom to expand the width of our carriers, we can also implement other improvements as well, so we began a process of wide consultation with our customers, maritime authorities and technical experts,” says Geir Fagerheim, Head of Fleet Management, WWL. “The challenge was to come up with an optimal design that could not only offer increased capacity and greater flexibility, but also reduced fuel consumption and carbon emissions.”

The result is the new High Efficiency RorO (HERO) carrier – a modern, state-of-the-art vessel that is fully equipped to meet industry demands both today and in the foreseeable future. However designing and building the HERO type vessel is a long process involving extensive research and testing.

Can we help you with your shipping needs?

The initial design development phase started in 2010, and was a collaborative project between WWL and the technical departments of Wallenius Marine and WW ASA.

Throughout the whole process, the key objective of the project team was to meet industry and customer needs as best as possible, while remaining within the confines of what was technically feasible. One of the key demands from customers was the need 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, thus optimising space and storage capacity.

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 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, its rudder decreases drag and improves surrounding water flow, causing less strain on the engine. In addition, the novel bow design reduces wave resistance and by extension overall fuel consumption.  

A new Exhaust Gas Cleaning system, the first of its kind on this type of ship, ensures sulphur emissions comply with new Emission Control Area regulations and reduces particulate emissions by 70 per cent. Emissions of SOx, CO2 and NOx have also been reduced. The HERO complies with the Green Passport, the International Maritime Organisation’s guidelines on ship recycling.

 “We set ourselves some very ambitious targets when we began designing these new vessels, and the final result is very satisfying,” says Fagerheim. “Not only have we successfully increased our carrying capacity, but we’ve also significantly improved our environmental footprint.”

As shipping continues to become more globalised and trade routes become more intricate, there is a growing need to access ports in many developing countries, where depth can often be an issue. To help combat this, the HERO vessel includes a shallower draft, enabling it to dock into more ports than other vessels.

“With the HERO vessels we can carry a much wider range of cargo types, and cover all the core trade routes,” says Fagerheim. “This will enable us to support our customers with much greater capacity and efficiency.”

The first HERO vessel, m/v Thermopylae, was delivered in January 2015. Another seven vessels will be delivered throughout 2015 and 2017.


Factbox - HERO

Length: 199.99 metres

Width: 36.5 metres

Ramp capacity: 320 tonnes and 12 metres wide

Main deck height: 6.5 metres

Speed: 10 - 20 knots


Panamax and New Panamax

Panamax is the maximum vessel size for passing through the Panama Canal’s locks, and for this reason is the international standard for shipping vessels. However the construction of the Panama Canal’s third locks, due to be completed in 2016, has lead to a new standard, the New Panamax (or sometimes also referred to as Neo-Panamax or Post-Panamax).


Old locks

Width: 33.5 metres

Length: 320 metres

Depth: 12.5 metres


New Locks

Width: 55 metres

Length: 427 metres

Depth: 18.3 metres



Width: 32.3 metres

Length: 294 metres

Draft: 12 metres


New Panamax

Width: 49 metres

Length: 366 metres

Draft: 15.2 metres