The first of Austal's Auto Express 101 ferries is scheduled to debut this month for Spanish operator, Euroferrys, across the Strait of Gibraltar. The 331 ft. (101 m) Euroferrys Pacifica is the largest of Austal's flagship Auto Express car ferries ever built, and is also reported to be the largest high speed catamaran in the world with diesel propulsion. With the capacity for 951 passengers and 251 cars, the new aluminum ferry will operate on the 16 nm route between Algeciras on the southern coast of Spain and Ceuta in Spanish Morocco, completing six return crossings per day.
Euroferrys currently operates a 256 ft. (78 m) fast ferry and two conventional ferries on two separate routes. With a sizeable 750 dwt and the ability to carry semi-trailers, Austal's sales director
, Chris Norman, said the capacity and flexibility of the Auto Express 101 will enable Euroferrys to replace the 256 ft. (78 m) fast ferry and one conventional ferry currently servicing the Ceuta route, reducing operating costs while providing improved service.
To meet the customer's demand to haul a substantial number of commercial vehicles on a relatively short (16 nm) route, the vessel features a new Austal design innovation in the garage — a hoistable vehicle deck to facilitate a mix of vehicle and commercial/freight carriage.
Joaquin Gonzalez, president of Euroferrys said, "We are absolutely delighted with the vessel from inside and out. We can now offer our customers the best in comfort and convenience. This vessel has, without a doubt, the best vehicle deck we have seen in the market and in such a competitive seaway, which is vital to our operation. It is very well designed. Vehicles drive through for easy loading and unloading. Caravans can park under the mezzanine decks and not take up valuable space in the freight lanes. This will have a significant effect on the smooth flow of our service."
Auto Express 101's vehicle deck features approximately 1,190 lane meters, including 341 freight lane meters. The hoistable vehicle deck (full length of the vessel) has four hydraulically operated sections that can be operated together or independently and can be raised or lowered in less than one minute.
Fitted with four diesel engines generating 28,800 kW and the Seastate T Max high speed steering system, Euroferrys Pacifica achieved 37 knots with 500 tons dwt at 90 percent MCR.
The wheelhouse is outfitted with the latest marine navigation and communication equipment including a suite of Kelvin Hughes ARPA
radars and electronic chart navigation, a Vistar night vision anti-collision system and GMDSS A2 communication. The Austal developed Marine Link system provides extensive monitoring of machinery and systems throughout the vessel as required by class. While the main function of Marine Link is control and monitoring, it also has a powerful on-line documentation system to manage all user manuals and even the vessel's electrical drawings and documentation.
Four Marine Evacuation System (MES) stations are located forward and aft, to port and starboard and have been supplied by RFD. The systems can be activated locally or from the bridge. Harbor deployment trials successfully demonstrated the evacuation of 150 passengers from one station in eight minutes and 18 seconds.