In 1998, Austal delivered the Jade Express followed closely by the delivery in 1999 of the Opale Express. These vehicle/passenger ferries were destined for Guadeloupe, in the French West Indies, and island ferry operator Antilles Trans Express (ATE). It was in 2001 when the then manager, Dr Roland Bellemare and ship captain, Bruno Moeson decided to buy the company from Groupe Bourbon who owned ATE, giving rise to L’Express des Iles S.A. or The Islands Express.
Today the L’Express des Iles ferries operate regular domestic and international services between the harbours of Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante, Le Saintes, Dominica, Martinique and Sainte-Lucia.
It was soon after the 2001 management buy-out that discussions first began for the new ferries. During 2002 the design and performance criteria were established with much of 2003 and 2004 focused on achieving a flexible finance solution before a contract was signed on October 29. A year to the day later both boats were handed over prior to them being loaded onboard a heavy lift ship in Fremantle Harbour bound for Guadeloupe.
With the boats set to enter service by the end of the year the entire four boat L’Express des Iles fleet, following some recent sales, is now comprised entirely of Austal built fast ferries.
Moeson commented on the decision to again choose Austal designed and built ferries.
Commenting on the design theme of the current Austal boats in operation Moeson said, Silver Express will carry 360 passengers and 10 cars and Gold Express 446 passengers, but they share the same length and have identical four engine propulsion arrangements providing a speed of 38 knots fully loaded.