On April 3, 2006, at Austal’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard
, the installation began on the first of four MTU 8000 Series engines; the largest yet to be installed on any of Austal’s ferries in the U.S. These engines were installed in the first of two Austal Auto Express, 353-ft. vehicle-passenger ferries for Hawaii Superferry (HSF) that will be built at Austal. Each 49-ton engine has 20 cylinders, and produces 8,200 kw at 1150 RPM.
Full contract funding for this two-vessel project was recently confirmed in October 2005 making the contract unconditional. Construction of the first ferry has been underway since June 2004 at Austal in Mobile based on initial funding from Hawaii Superferry and a strategic decision by Austal to advance work on the project in order to develop the workforce in readiness for the Littoral Combat Ship project
. On the present schedule, the first ferry is due for delivery in the first half of 2007. Construction has already started on the second ferry and is currently scheduled for completion in the first half of 2009.
The installation procedure was innovative in that it required: an 26ft x 12ft (8m x 3.8m) hole cut into the side of the hull, a six-ton lifting cradle positioned above on the ferry vehicle deck, and a two-ton spreader beam to equalize the four-point lift, and a four-ton steel tower and rail system to “skate” the engines laterally into the hull. The installation of all four engines was completed within three weeks, ahead of schedule and under budget.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the ferry owner had to make a change to the engines after the design was complete and construction was underway on the vessel. This could have been cause for difficulties in completing a smooth installation process. When asked for his opinion of the engine installation evolution, Hawaii Superferry Board Member, Bill Shirley commented, “The Austal design and production team adapted well to the necessary change in engines making it a seamless adjustment. The installation proceeded uneventfully which is a compliment to those who were involved in this complicated procedure.”
Hawaii Superferry plans to use Austal fast ferry technology to establish Hawaii’s first high-speed vehicle-passenger service. Each catamaran will carry 866 passengers and 282 vehicles and provide services connecting Honolulu to Maui and Kauai in three hours and from Honolulu to the Big Island in four hours.