July 23, 2003
Mid July saw two aluminum catamarans alongside the Austal Ships fitting out wharf in Henderson, Western Australia. A few hundred yards down the road, the latest Oceanfast luxury yacht was having the finishing touches applied prior to handover to its American-based owner. Half a world away in Mobile, Alabama, Austal USA also had a catamaran nearing completion.
By no means insignificant at 41.5 meters, the smallest of the four vessels is arguably the most eye-catching, thanks largely to the 20 meter, water-spouting Chinese dragon that is mounted atop its superstructure.
It certainly turned many heads as it was trucked the short distance from Austal subsidiary Image Marine's facility to the Henderson waterfront in readiness for launch.
The catamaran is one of a pair Image Marine is building for New World First Travel Services and is purpose designed for sightseeing service in Hong Kong Harbor, where the brightly-lit fiberglass dragons are set to make the vessels the talk of the town when they enter service in October.
Each can carry 351 passengers at up to 16 knots. At the same time as the sight-seeing vessel was being transported to the water's edge, Austal Ships was launching an even larger vessel – a 66 meter vehicle-passenger catamaran. One of two fast ferries ordered from Austal Ships by leading European operator Fred. Olsen, S.A. in the last eight months, the Auto Express 66 will enter service in the Canary Islands later this year. It has capacity for 450 passengers and 69 cars or 110 lane meters of trucks plus 37 cars and will operate at more than 30 knots.
In June Fred. Olsen, S.A. placed a follow up order for a 126.7 meter fast ferry that is based on Austal's new trimaran hullform. The trimaran has exceptionally good seakeeping characteristics and is thus set to deliver Fred. Olsen, S.A's passengers a substantially more comfortable ride than its three existing 96 meter catamarans.
Completing the trio of custom-designed Austal catamarans entering the water in mid-July was "Zephyr" which Austal USA was preparing for its delivery voyage to New York.
Built for Circle Line-Statue of Liberty Ferry, Inc., the 43.5 meter, 600 passenger vessel combines the speed and comfort Austal fast ferries are known for, with the layout and operating flexibility to enable it to be quickly and easily reconfigured for sightseeing and evening charter duties.
The 25 vessels on order across the Austal group paint a picture of even greater diversity:
Austal Ships-–five vehicle-passenger ferries (including the two for Fred. Olsen, S.A.) and ten 37.5 meter naval patrol boats for Yemen.
Austal USA--one 58 meter vehicle-passenger ferry and the Circle Line catamaran.
Image Marine--three 22 meter Coast Guard vessels for Kuwait and the two harbor cruise boats for Hong Kong.
Oceanfast--three luxury motor yachts.