Austal USA wins vehicle/passenger ferry contract
Austal USA has secured its largest order to date. Valued at approximately US$18.75, the contract with Milwaukee-based Lake Express LLC is for the construction of a 58 metre vehicle-passenger ferry
Due for delivery in time to commence operation in summer 2004, the aluminium catamaran will be the largest vessel so far constructed at the company's purpose-built shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.
Austal's managing director, Mr Bob McKinnon, said the contract was another important step forward for Austal's plans to build large high-speed vessels for commercial and military customers in the United States.
Capable of carrying 253 passengers and 46 cars, the Auto Express 58 for Lake Express will be the first high speed vehicle-passenger ferry to enter service in the continental United States.
With a speed of 34 knots (63km/h), it will cross Lake Michigan and link the cities of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Muskegon in Michigan in just over two hours. This will save passengers a lengthy drive around the southern shore of Lake Michigan, including traffic congestion in Chicago.
"The scope for further applications of high-speed ferry technology to alleviate traffic issues in the United States is very large indeed, and Austal USA's position in the Austal Group gives it better credentials in the design and construction of this type of ferry than any other US shipyard," McKinnon said.
"Securing this contract is another milestone achievement in Austal USA's progressive building of capacity and skills which will enable us to efficiently construct even larger ferries and fast ships for the U.S. Department of Defense," McKinnon noted.
"With the Austal USA shipyard and workforce now well-established, and backed by the accumulated experience and resources of Austal Ships, we are in an excellent position to take advantage of the opportunities the U.S .market promises."
Austal USA is already part of a team, led by General Dynamics, that is bidding for the U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship project. This may eventually require up to 60 ships, each of around 120 m in length. The U.S. Army is also seeking to acquire a number of similarly sized ships for use as high-speed TheaterSupport Vessels.
Austal USA has recently delivered a 41 m monohull dinner cruise vessel and is also presently building a 43 m passenger catamaran. Both vessels will operate in New York. Previous completions include two 45 m crew/supply vessels, a 26 m passenger ferry and a 34 m dinner cruise catamaran.