The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomed the delivery of its two Austal-built 289 ft high speed vehicle-passenger catamarans, “Riyadh” and “Cairo” during a handover ceremony in Jeddah attended by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak.
Ordered by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance in 2007, the vessels are a gift to the Egyptian Government, and will assist in improving the standard of ferry services across the Red Sea.
Operating on a 100 nautical mile route between Dibba in Saudi Arabia and Safaga in Egypt, the vessels are intended for Pilgrims travelling to Mecca, Egyptian workers travelling to and from Saudi Arabia as well as business and leisure travellers.
Both vessels carry 1200 passengers, 120 cars and 15 trucks and recorded impressive service speeds of 37 knots during recent sea trials, three knots in excess of contract requirements.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr. Ibrahim Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Assaf, the Saudi Arabian Minister of Finance said that the inauguration of the two vessels represented a qualitative leap and would establish a new phase in marine transport between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, reducing the current eight-hour trip between Dibba and Safaga by about two hours. The vessels will contribute in transporting about 1 million passengers every year, he added.
Dr. Al-Assaf said that the attendance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak at the launching ceremony of the two ships reflected the depth of relations between the countries of Saudi Arabia and Egypt and their peoples. The Minister, in addressing the King said, "I was honored to receive your order to build two fast ships to transport passengers and vehicles in accordance with the latest international standards in terms of quality and safety. The Ministry immediately took the necessary actions for implementation."
The Egyptian Minister of Transport Mohamed Mansour thanked King Abdullah and the Saudi people for presenting the two ships as a gift which he said reflected the meaning of friendship and cooperation between two brotherly countries.
King Abdullah handed the ships’ ownership documents over to the President Mubarak before the two leaders toured the ships.
Each vessel is powered by four MTU 20V8000 M71R engines at the reduced maximum rating of 7,200kW @ 1,150rpm, allowing low engine stresses, increased fuel efficiency and longer intervals between engine overhauls.
The car deck features both port and starboard mezzanine levels capable of being lifted for truck and bus access. With an open bow above the forward turning area, the aft loading point features combined vehicle and passenger ramps for quick deployment and retrieval, enabling fast port turnarounds.
Passenger seating is situated on a spacious upper deck with panoramic window views, with a private VIP cabin offering exclusive views from the vessel’s bow.
Austal’s Director – Global Sales and Marketing, Andrew Bellamy, said the vessels drew on Austal’s extensive experience with similar high speed vehicle ferries, many of which have been proven in operation throughout the Middle East region.
“Based on an existing Austal design and optimized to suite specific customer requirements, these vessels will be a valuable asset to the Middle East region, providing an improved transportation service across the Red Sea,” Mr. Bellamy said.
“This significant delivery brings the total number of Austal vessels operating in the Middle East to 18, as well as 10 in nearby Turkey, underlining our commitment to the unique needs of the region,” he said.
Both 289 ft ferries made the 15-day, 5700 nautical mile journey from Western Australia to Jeddah, via the Maldives and the Gulf of Aden, on their own power. Each vessel is powered by four MTU 20V 8000 Series diesel engines producing 4 x 7,200kW and driving Kamewa waterjets.
Construction is continuing on an additional two 226 ft vehicle-passenger catamarans at Austal’s Western Australian shipyard, which are to be owned and operated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and are scheduled for delivery by mid 2009.