August 31, 2004
Giant ferry nears completion
Progress on the construction of Austal's Auto Express 127 meter trimaran fast ferry "Benchijigua Express" for Fred. Olsen, S.A. continues at a rapid pace.
Ordered in June last year, the cargo-vehicle-passenger ferry will sail at loaded speeds in excess of 40 knots, providing capacity for 1,350 passengers, over 340 cars and more than 400 freight lane meters. When delivered it will be the largest aluminum ship ever built. The newly developed trimaran hull form is promised to provide a "significant improvement in seakeeping performance and passenger comfort over existing fast ferries.
A major construction was reached in mid-July when the bow section, itself measuring some 32 meters in length, 15 meters high and weighing 120 tonnes, was moved out of its building hall and united with the main structure, which completely filled another large hall. With the sections joined, the giant vessel protruding from the 110 meter long building hall by some 30 meters.
"The sight of this gigantic ship, the largest aluminum vessel to ever be built in the world, caused me to stop and reflect on where we have come from and what our future potential is," commented Austal chairman John Rothwell.
"At 127 meters this huge vessel is 4 1Ú4 times longer than the first Austal-built live-aboard dive catamaran of just 30 meters," Rothwell reflected. "Traveling some 9,500 nautical miles the trimaran will be delivered half way across the world to the Canary Islands, whereas the catamaran was delivered 3,500 nautical miles across Australia to Queensland. At the height of construction approximately 430 people have worked on the trimaran with construction taking 12 months plus two months for commissioning and sea trials. The 30 metre cat was built in approximately six months with just 30 people."
With the bow section fitted the next major milestone was the installation of the ship's machinery plant and this was followed by the rollout of the vessel on August 16.
The vessel is now 80% complete and with large sections of the structure gleaming in Fred. Olsen's eye-catching livery it will be a dominant feature on the Henderson, Western Australia, skyline until its launch in late September.
After it is delivered later this year, the new trimaran will operate in the Canary Islands on the routes from Los Cristianos, Tenerife to San Sebastian, Gomera and the island of Palma, bringing a new age in transport to the ferry industry.