The delivery voyage of the 282 ft. vehicle-passenger ferry Lilia Concepcion built by Austal Ships included a number of highlights, including a Panama Canal first, a new distance record and a circumnavigation with a difference.
Capable of carrying 828 passengers and 243 cars, the catamaran is the second of its type Austal has delivered to leading Venezuelan operator Conferry, the first being “Carmen Ernestina” delivered in 1999. Both vessels were built at the Austal shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia and operate services to the same port on Margarita Island, a popular holiday destination. To say that Lilia Concepcion ‘followed in the wake’ of Conferry’s first Auto Express 86 is not strictly true however.
Whereas the first ferry headed west via the Suez Canal, the recently completed delivery voyage of Lilia Concepcion was in the opposite direction – through the Southern Ocean, across the Pacific Ocean and then through the Panama Canal and the Caribbean Sea to Venezuela.
The transit through the Panama Canal was a particular highpoint. It marked the first time in Austal’s distinguished 14-year history that an Austal-built vessel had passed through this historic and vital artery of international shipping.
En route to Panama, Lilia Concepcion had completed another ‘personal best’ for an Austal ferry, setting a new record for the greatest distance covered without stopping. The 4,656 nautical mile leg from Papeete, Tahiti to the anchorage
off Colon, Panama took just under 12 days at an economical average cruising speed of 16.7 knots. Powered by four diesel engines driving waterjets, “Lilia Concepcion” is capable of loaded speeds of 41 knots.
The catamaran’s arrival at Margarita Island early in the morning on July 27, 2002 had special significance for three of the delivery crew. Delivery captain Han Tiemes, Conferry Captain Miguel Jimenez and Chief Engineer Luis Figeuroa had all been onboard during the delivery of “Carmen Ernestina” three years earlier, and thus have the distinction of having circumnavigated the world on Austal-built fast ferries.
Shortly after arriving in her home waters, “Lilia Concepcion” began operating on the route between La Guaira near Caracas and Peurto La Cruz on Margarita Island, offering a fast, comfortable and efficient service for passengers, cars and trucks.