December 5, 2002

Car/passenger ferry order for Austal
Australia's Austal Ships today announced an unconditional contract for a 66 m high speed vehicle-passenger catamaran for a "well-established ferry operator." This is the unnaamed customer's first contract with Austal and brings the total number of vessels under construction for the Austal group to 16.

Austal's managing director,Bob McKinnon said, "We are particularly pleased by this order as it is from a new customer and reinforces the fact that Austal continues to provide cost effective, tailored solutions for transportation requirements."

"The new vessel will be joining an existing fleet of ferries and we anticipate that its success will lead to more orders from this client in the future," said mcKinnon.

Due for delivery in August 2003, the Auto Express 66 will operate at a speed of approximately 31 knots and will have the capacity to carry 450 passengers and 69 cars or 110 lane meters of trucks plus 37 cars.

Principal particulars, Auto Express 66

  • Overall length: 66.2 m
  • Waterline length (approx): 59.0 m
  • Molded beam: 18.2 m
  • Hull depth (molded): 5.9 m
  • Maximum hull draft: 2.5 m
  • Passengers: 450
  • Cars: 69 (max)
  • Heavy vehicles: 110 truck lane-meters (plus 37 cars)
  • Main engines: 2 x Paxman 18VP185 and 2 x Paxman 12VP185
  • Gearboxes: 2 x Reintjes VLJ 2230 and 2 x Reintjes VLJ 1130
  • Waterjets: 2 x Kamewa 80SII and 2 x Kamewa 90SII
  • Speed: 31 knots
  • Austal Ships notes it also has an 86 m vehicle-passenger catamaran ferry available for delivery in June / July 2003. Capable of loaded speeds in excess of 42 knots, this vessel provides capacity for 774 passengers and 238 cars or 10 trucks and fewer cars.

    For some time now, Austal has reported that the market for large ferries remains subdued. Commenting on this, McKinnon said, "The overhang of Incat vessels and their urgent need to sell these ships has made it impossible for us to win contracts for two vessels."

    In spite of the difficult market resulting from the Incat situation, Austal says its core commercial vessel business continues to provide satisfactory levels of profitability. In addition to the 66 and 86 m vehicle ferries, Austal Ships is currently building two 69 m cruise yachts for Tahiti. Austal, together with its partner Defence Maritime Services, has recently submitted its final bid for the Royal Australian Navy's SEA 1444 Replacement Patrol Boat project. The preferred tenderer for this project will be announced in the first half of 2003.

    Austal USA, with the support of Austal Ships in Australia, is also currently pursuing military projects involving large multihulls, as well as having orders for three vessels for commercial operators. Another four catamarans in the 40 metre range two for Norway and two for Hong Kong are being built by Austal's Image Marine unit.

    On the other side of the coin, delivery of the 86 m vehicle-passenger catamaran currently under construction for Canadian American Transportation Systems has been delayed by some seven months as port facilities in Rochester, N.Y., where the vessel will operate from are not ready.

    And McKinnon confirmed yesteray that the Austal subsidiary company Oceanfast built luxury motor yacht Aussie Rules, built for golfer Greg Norman, had incurred significant cost overruns. "There is no question that the effort and investment required to gear up our resources and experience levels to achieve the demands of this project have been considerable," said McKinnon.

    "The end result however, is an outstanding quality product that will deliver opportunities associated with the profile of such a vessel.We also believe that Aussie Rules will further establish Oceanfast as a premier luxury yacht builder in what is a very large world market."

    The company is therefore forecasting a modest loss for the first half of the 2003 financial year. It is anticipated that the full year result will be a small profit substantially lower than expectations.

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