Austal Ships' Managing Director, Mr Bob McKinnon said he believes after a period of low activity within the fast ferry market, there are now signs that the market is on the rebound, coming primarily from three principal sources: existing fast ferry operators attracted by new technologies; the growth and emergence of new markets; and the use of fast ferry technology in new roles such as military applications.
McKinnon presented his thoughts at Ausmarine 2002, an international marine industry conference being held in Fremantle, Western Australia.
McKinnon said that diversification of the customer base would almost certainly result in a more diverse range of fast ferries being delivered over the next few years. This in turn means it is unlikely that there will be any clear trends in terms of vessel size, speed or capacity. Austal believes that these trends have important implications for companies involved in the construction of fast ferries.
"Builders will need a broad product range and the ability to custom design and build vessels to individual customer requirements if they are to be successful," McKinnon said, adding that it was possible that fewer shipyards would be involved in fast ferry construction in the future.
While new geographic markets are going to be important for the future development of the fast ferry industry, for shipbuilders and suppliers there is also considerable potential for the use of similar technology in other applications, particularly military roles.
"There has been considerable military interest in the use of large fast ferries, and that interest appears to be growing. A variety of possible roles for fast ferry technology have been identified by military planners, and we feel confident that others will arise as defense organizations become increasingly familiar with the capabilities of high speed craft
," McKinnon said. "These applications will play an important part in defining the future of the supply-side industry, as well as encouraging the development of new technologies that will complement those being developed for ferry applications."