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October 2, 2002

Austal fast ferries head for Hong Kong

Austal trio heads for Hong Kong
After an absence of five years, Austal Ships has made a dramatic return to Hong Kong, a market that helped to establish the Australian shipbuilder as an international force in the design and construction of high speed ferries.

The simultaneous delivery of three 47.5 m aluminium catamarans takes the total number of Austal-built vessels delivered to Hong Kong to 32, making it the leading supplier of fast ferries to this globally significant market.

Delivered over a five year period beginning in November 1990, the previous 29 Austal deliveries to Hong Kong were critical in establishing the company's reputation as a supplier of world class fast ferries in the 40 m range.

"Based on this solid foundation," said managing director Bob McKinnon, "Austal has built up a product range that now also includes vehicle-passenger ferries, cruise yachts, patrol boats, offshore crewboats and large high speed vessels for military applications."

"We are delighted to welcome [Hong Kong's] New World First Ferry to the expanding group of leading operators that are taking advantage of Austal's expertise in high performance vessels," said McKinnon. "I am confident that the success of these vessels will be the start of a long-term relationship between our two companies."

New World First Ferry (NWFF) operates 12 routes within Hong Kong Harbor and to outlying islands. This includes the services between Hong Kong and Macau operated by New World First Ferry Servicios Maritimos (Macau) on which the new Austal catamarans will run.

Adolf H. Hsu, Managing Director of First Ferry (Macau) said: "By bringing these three new high-speed catamarans alongside the existing fleet, First Ferry (Macau)'s capacity is nearly doubled. With their loaded speed of 41.8 knots, reclining seats, wide passage ways, tinted windows and modern kiosk service, the new ferries represent our dedication to pursue a higher standard of passenger comfort and operational safety."

The acquisition of the three Austal ferries (with an option for up to four more) reflects New World First Ferry's confidence in the prospects for continued growth in passenger volumes on the Hong Kong to Macau route.

The new cats will make the run in approximately 50 minutes. Seakeeping and thus passenger comfort is optimized by an active motion control system supplied by Seastate. This consists of interceptors aft and retractable T-foils forward.

PRINCIPAL PARTICULARS

Length Overall: 47.5 m

Length Waterline: 44.0 m

Beam Molded: 11.8 m

Hull Depth Molded: 3.8 m

Maximum Draft: 1.4 m

Maximum deadweight: 55.8 tonnes

Passengers: 414

Crew: 8

Fuel (maximum): 20,000 liters

PROPULSION

Engines: 4 x MTU 16V 4000 M70; 2320 kW at 2000 rpm each

Gearboxes: 4 x Reintjes VLJ 930 HL

Waterjets: 4 x Kamewa 63 SII

Speed: 41.8 knots at 95% MCR with 44.1 tonnes of deadweight

SURVEY

Classification Det Norske Veritas X1A1 HSLC Passenger R2 EO

John Hui, director and general manager of First Ferry (Macau), said: "The new catamarans are equipped with the latest navigational aids ensuring the optimal performance of the vessels. The cabin is well-appointed with a strong focus on passenger comfort, featuring audio-visual equipment and luxurious seating throughout, and of course with the striking livery of our company logo."

"New Ferry LXXXI", "New Ferry LXXXII" and "New Ferry LXXXIII" can each carry 414 passengers on two decks. Of these, 100 are carried on the upper deck, including 16 passengers in private VIP lounges.

Comfortable Beurteaux seats are fitted throughout the passenger areas, which feature hard-wearing vinyl type flooring for long life and ease of maintenance. The purple floors are in keeping with New World First Ferry's corporate color scheme which combines purple with bright orange and green, making the company's modern fleet instantly recognizable.

Austal says it worked closely with New World First Ferry to ensure that the corporate branding was maintained throughout, right down to details such as the color of the toilet doors and including the pattern on the stairway capping in the passenger cabin.

Hui described working with the staff of Austal as a "great pleasure."

"They were very forthcoming and always prepared to discuss the pros and cons of various issues that arose over the course of the project," he noted, adding that he was also "impressed by the professionalism and zeal of the Austal staff" who "went to great lengths to ensure that all three vessels were delivered before the contract date."

Mark Stothard, who managed the successful contract bid for Austal, said the close contact and understanding between Austal and NWFF was a key to making the project so successful.

"The performance of the entire Austal team is typified by project manager John Van Meekeren, who showed great dedication and drive to develop a close working relationship with the customer and thus ensure that we fully understood their needs," Stothard said.

"On the customer side," he said, New World First Ferry had a "great asset in David Wong, who both wrote the tender and then followed the vessels through as the owner's representative."

Among the passenger goodies installed on the three cats are 107 cm (42 inch) color plasma monitors allow main deck passengers to view either local television or video/DVD entertainment. Another large plasma screen and four smaller LCD monitors are fitted on the upper deck. The monitors can be linked to a camera on the wheelhouse roof, showing all passengers the view ahead of the vessel.

Other onboard facilities include a main deck kiosk, toilets and baggage racks on both decks.

Each ferry operates with a crew of eight, including five in the bridge which features maximum vision and an electronics package incorporating two X-band radars, electronic charting, night vision and a day and night sailing recording system.

McKinnon said that although Austal is best known internationally for fast aluminium catamarans such as the Hong Kong vessels, the combined order book of Austal group companies reflects a far more varied product range.

"Austal group companies are currently building no fewer than 12 vessels, including cruise yachts, passenger and vehicle-passenger ferries, dinner cruise / sightseeing vessels and luxury motor yachts," Mr McKinnon said.

"These vessels are being built in both aluminium and steel, and include both monohulls and catamarans, which really serves to illustrate the success of our policy of diversifying our product range," he explained.

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