Austal USA, the fast expanding US aluminum shipyard subsidiary of Austal Ships, has signed an important contract for a catamaran dinner cruise vessel with the well-established and highly respected Island Queen Cruises of Miami, Florida. Contract value is not being published but delivery will be in November 2002 in time for the busy Christmas season.
Charles Sofge, the major shareholder in Island Queen, is also a partner in the ownership of Aqua Cat, the vessel delivered earlier
this year to Blackbeard Cruises by Image Marine, part of the Austal Group. This new order represents a strong endorsement of the quality of the Austal Group ship design and construction and a clear illustration of the synergies within the group. The design is closely based upon a vessel delivered by Image to Sydney just a month ago and all design modifications will take place in Austal’s headquarters in Western Australia. Austal USA has liaised both with the Australian-based design team and the US Coast Guard to produce a version of the Sydney vessel that will meet 46 CFR Subchapter K rules and with a US regulatory tonnage of less than 100.
Island Queen see the long term opportunities for this yacht-style dinner cruise vessel as extremely exciting in the Miami area, especially within Biscayne Bay, despite the current impact on tourism following the events of 11 September. In fact many cruise vessel operators in the US now expect that tourists will generally eschew cruising abroad and instead take holidays within the 50 states in the coming year. The catamaran will operate a variety of charters appealing to corporate and large private groups.
For Austal USA, this contract very well illustrates the variety of vessel types of which the shipbuilder is capable and is thanks in part to the state-of-the-art facilities that Austal has built in the port city of Mobile, Alabama. This dinner cruise vessel will join the two 150ft crew-supply vessels and the 82ft fast ferry all currently under construction and establish Austal USA as a premier supplier of aluminum vessels in the US, just 8 months after the facilities were dedicated in February of this year!
The vessel design centers on a Main Deck dining area for up to 200 seats and will also feature a large Upper Deck with bar and dance area and an open Sun Deck. Finishes such as stainless steel railings throughout, coupled with Austal’s renown flair for interior design will significantly enhance the overall experience on-board. The hulls will be fitted out for a galley, a wash-up space and bathrooms. The catamaran will be powered by two Caterpillar 3406C diesel engines, each rated at 310 bhp, driving fixed pitch propellers through Twin Disc Marine gears.
Another key to the success of the project is the finance provided by Caterpillar Finance of Nashville, TN. That this finance was approved in a very short period of time was testament not just to the efficient processes of Cat Finance but also the confidence they have in the Island Queen company that has been operating excursions in Miami for over 23 years and is one of the oldest sightseeing companies in the USA.