The Pelena Express Ferry

The Pelena Express vessel is a plate aluminium boat with an extensive flat deck area for carrying passengers and/or cargo. The fantastic load carrying capacity of the Pelena Express boat, with its very shallow draught (400mm when idle, 200mm when at speed), allows the boat excellent access to many village beachfronts. This eliminates the need for multi-transfers of cargo from multiple boats to multiple canoes. The hull is a proven design used extensively in the open ocean oyster-boat industry where wave piercing, shallow draught, and high load carrying capacity are essential design elements.

The boat was constructed by Pelena Energy, located in Dorrigo, NSW, Australia.

Passenger and Cargo carrying area

The Pelena Express vessel carries:

  • 24 adult passengers and 10 children, plus crew and luggage; or
  • 3 tonnes of cargo.

If you would like to charter the boat for a personal cargo or passenger run please contact Pelena Express.

The jet unit

The vessel is powered by a jet unit as this allows access to shallow areas previously inaccessible by any water transport except outboard canoes without damage to the boat or the environment. The Pelena Express vessel does have a propeller — but it’s located inside a pipe inside the boat. A screen or trashrack stops logs and coconuts from hitting and damaging the propeller. Because there is no propeller underneath the boat, less depth of water is required to operate the boat. The enclosed propeller design is also a much safer alternative to open propellers which can easily injure people or animals in the water.

Maintenance of the vessel

The maintenance program for the vessel is strictly controlled. The equipment that makes up the boat has been chosen for its reliability and ease of spare parts availability and supply. Preventative maintenance of the vessel and regular checks of all components is routine. The crew members have been chosen because of their experience working with other Pelena products, especially the Pelena Energy micro-hydroelectric turbines. Good people and good equipment and good support results in reliable operation.

Safety on Board the Pelena Express

The most important safety feature is the training of the crew. All crew are rural Solomon Islanders with extensive personal experience in safety at sea. Additionally, all crew members have completed extensive Solomon Islands recognised maritime training in fire-fighting, first aid, survival at sea techniques, and occupational heath and safety. Additionally, some crew members have undertaken training in Australia towards the final stages of vessel construction and motored the vessel from Australia to Solomon Islands. The vessel will be surveyed by Solomon Islands Marine Division and has been approved for use as a passenger vessel. The vessel was constructed to USL codes in Australia for use in waters up to 30Nm from the coastline. A full complement of lifejackets, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), fresh water, bilge pumps, multiple radios (HF & VHF) and satellite phone are also employed. Below deck, the vessel has sufficient buoyancy foam to keep the vessel afloat should the hull of the boat be ruptured.


Pelena Energy of Australia has developed technology for reliably operating diesel engines on coconut oil (CNO). It is planned that the vessel will be operating on a blend of diesel fuel and coconut oil after business establishment, and later on pure coconut oil. The aim is to eliminate the copra processing in villages and instead produce oil directly at the village level. This will provide income for villagers and minimise the dependence of Solomon Islands on imported oil. Of course, the minimisation of greenhouse-gas emissions are also significant.

Our vessel will operate on straight coconut oil, or what’s termed SVO (straight vegetable oil). We do not plan to use the coconut oil as a feedstock to a “biodiesel” fuel, as our experience indicates the production of biodiesel, by processes such as transesterfication, is quite hit-and-miss and often results in engine damage. Such a process — although widely sought in many countries — is not appropriate to Solomon Islands, in our opinion.

Copyright © 2006-2013 Pelena Express

Last updated Thursday, November 7, 2013