Is Aluminium ferry (which can carry about 150 persons) better than steel one in term of the weight and Life cycle cost?
Typically an aluminum hull will weigh ~45% less than a steel hull of the same dimensions so yes it should be considerable lighter.
Aluminum does not need to be painted except below the waterline and what is not painted does not need to be repainted. After a few years, if you want to get the new look back, you can have it polished cheaper that repainting a steel hull. Steel hulls are a constant battle with corrosion and every chip and nick needs to be repainted or it will rust. Therefore aluminum will be lower life cycle cost.
The acquisition cost of steel and aluminum boats are actually about the same. Aluminum costs more per pound but you use fewer pounds per boat and aluminum is easier to work with and requires less paint. The down side of working with aluminum is it requires inert gas welding so you need shelter from the wind and it requires a higher skill level to weld, especially on thin stock. It also requires better sound isolation and thermal insulation.
Designing "Portager" a transportable passagemaker
I would agree with the last contributer. Our Spirit 36 was not painted except below the waterline, and looked like a silver bullet. One option we considered was printed vinyl wrapping similar to the all over advertisments you see on taxis and buses. However the operators funds did not stretch this far - but it would have been interresting to see how well this could have worked. I have also heard talk of a self healing coating from New Zealand that you can paint on aluminium which keeps it shiny and new looking - but don't have more detail.
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