Australian shipbuilder Austal Ships and European ferry operator Fred. Olsen, S.A. have signed a historic contract for the world’s largest high-speed multihull vessel which will be based on a new hullform that will reportedly revolutionize fast sea transportation.
When delivered in the second half of 2004, the 416-ft. (126.7-m) cargo-vehicle-passenger fast ferry will also be larger than any existing diesel-powered fast ferry – catamaran or monohull. It is also believed to be the world’s largest all-aluminium ship.
For Austal Ships, the new 126-m ferry is a significant, but carefully planned and evaluated, progression in high-speed ship design that is based on the successful performance and stability, which Austal has established through the design and construction of 24 vehicle-passenger ferries since 1994.
Known as the pioneers in the use of large high-speed ferries in the Canary Islands Fred Olsen, S.A. currently operates three fast ferries and two conventional vessels. The company carries almost three million passengers, half a million cars and a quarter of a million cargo vehicles per year in the five services that it offers in the Canary Islands.
One of the conventional vessels will be replaced in September by a new 66-m Auto Express catamaran on order at Austal Ships.
Fred. Olsen, S.A. and Austal Ships have since cooperated on an extensive program of research, tank testing and other analysis to firstly develop a new design and then ensure it would meet Fred. Olsen, S.A.’s requirements in an efficient and cost-effective manner – a slender, stabilized monohull – often referred to as a trimaran.
With power provided by four diesel engines driving waterjets, the Auto Express 126 trimaran will be able to maintain Fred. Olsen S.A’s projected service speed in excess of 40 knots and provides the capacity to carry 1,350 passengers, over 340 cars and a substantial number of trucks.
The superior seakeeping performance of the trimaran will provide Fred. Olsen, S.A.’s passengers with significantly enhanced levels of comfort compared to the company’s existing fast ferries and is also expected to result in noticeably higher levels of operability.
The speed and seakeeping performance of the hullform has been verified by extensive analysis, including multiple tank testing sessions at some of the world’s leading facilities. Austal has also built and tested an 11-m manned technology demonstrator and has modeled the vessel’s structure in detail using sophisticated finite-element techniques.
The vessel will be constructed in Austal’s existing facilities using techniques and materials that have been thoroughly proven and refined over many years through the construction of almost 100 previous aluminum vessels.
A team led by General Dynamics and including Austal USA is offering a variant of the trimaran hullform for the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship project
, and Austal USA is also in the running to build a series of Theatre Support Vessels for the US Army.