Austal has delivered its latest high speed passenger catamarans to a market that did much to establish the Australian shipbuilder as a world leader in the design and construction of high speed ferries.
Hong Kong based New World First Ferry Services (Macau) Limited accepted delivery of two 47.5 metre passenger catamarans at the beginning of September, taking the total number of Austal-built vessels in its fleet to seven.
Officiating at the colourful Launching Ceremony at Hong Kong’s Dragon Cruise Pier and at Macau Ferry
Terminal were Mr R C L Footman, JP, Commissioner for Transport of Hong Kong SAR Government and Mr Ao Man Long, Secretary for Transport and Public Works of Macau SAR Government. The launching ceremony was also attended by Dr Henry Cheng Kar Shun, Chairman of NWS Holdings (NWSZF)
, Mr Tsang Yam Pui, Executive Director of NWS Holdings, Mr John Hui, Director & General Manager of First Ferry (Macau) and Austal Sales Manager Mr Mark Stothard.
Speaking at the ceremony Dr Cheng said the arrival of the new ferries marked the culmination of First Ferry (Macau)’s investment of over HK$250 million to acquire five high speed catamarans in the past four years.
“With the dedicated service coupled with enhanced frequency, First Ferry (Macau) is well received by the market with encouraging patronage figures. Besides, the market share of First Ferry (Macau) has been on a rising trend, from a single digit figure up to the current 25 per cent. The two new catamarans strengthen the existing fleet and help increase sailings by nearly 20 per cent to over 52 departures a day,” Dr Cheng said.
“First Ferry (Macau) is optimistic for the future and our further investment in the industry demonstrates our long term commitment to the development of Hong Kong and Macau.”
New World First Ferry, regarded as being one of the Asia-Pacific region’s foremost ferry companies, operates 12 routes within Hong Kong Harbour and to outlying islands. This includes the services between Hong Kong and Macau on which the new Austal catamarans now operate.
Reflecting a high degree of satisfaction with its existing Austal catamarans, the two new high speed ferries are almost identical to the trio delivered to New World First Ferry in October 2002. Austal also delivered two 41 metre harbour cruise vessels to sister company New World First Travel Services Limited in October 2003.
Confirming Austal’s status as the leading supplier of fast ferries to this internationally significant market the arrival of “New Ferry LXXXV” and “New Ferry LXXXVI”, yard number 148 and 150 respectively, takes the total number of Austal-built vessels delivered to Hong Kong in the last 14 years to 36.
Mr John Hui, Director and General Manager of First Ferry (Macau) said each of the seven Austal-built vessels now employed in the New World group is operating well and contributing to the success of the company.
“In selecting the world’s largest builder of high speed aluminium vessels we took great comfort in the knowledge that our new vessels would not only be of first class construction but be delivered on time and on budget,” said Mr Hui.
“At an early stage in the construction of our first three ferries New World and Austal developed a very positive and cooperative working environment. Despite its meteoric growth and global successes Austal retains the small company ethos that was the driving force behind its early achievements. The Austal team has placed great emphasis on providing a very high degree of personal service and responsiveness to client needs, irrespective of whether the order is for a 48 metre ferry or a giant seagoing trimaran.”
Austal Managing Director Mr Bob McKinnon said that although it has grown to be the world’s largest aluminium shipbuilder Austal retains its commitment to personal service that enabled it to achieve world leading status.
“Austal takes pride in its beginnings as a small company with just 30 employees. Today that number stands at 1200 but our business continues to be structured in such a way as to ensure each customer can depend on that same personal contact we see as fundamental in catering for their individual requirements,” Mr McKinnon said.
“This unique quality in the ship building world, coupled with Austal’s ability to provide the financial, technical and production resources of a large company ensures that all customers of Austal, from dinner/harbour cruise and live-aboard operators to multi-nation ferry companies and militaries, can be assured their vessels will be produced to high standards of design and excellence by experts with a high standard of friendly professionalism.”
The new catamarans are equipped with the latest navigational aids ensuring the optimal performance of the vessels. The cabin is well-appointed with a strong focus on passenger comfort, featuring audio-visual equipment and luxurious seating throughout, and the owner’s striking livery which makes the modern fleet instantly recognizable. As was the case on all previous vessels Austal has worked closely with New World First Ferry to ensure that their corporate branding was maintained throughout.
Passengers enter the vessel via hydraulically operated gangways located on the port and starboard side of both decks amidships. Each gangway measures 1.5 metres in width and 2 metres in length. The gangways, painted with purple non-slip paint, are locally controlled with manual back-up in case of mechanical failure.
“New Ferry LXXXV” and “New Ferry LXXXVI” can each accommodate 430 passengers, a slight increase compared to the earlier trio. Of these, 100 are carried on the upper deck, including 12 passengers in two private VIP lounges. The latter are fitted with a call button for cabin attendant service.
Comfortable Beurteaux airline-style seats are fitted throughout the passenger areas, which feature First Bus colour scheme vinyl flooring for long life and ease of maintenance. For passenger comfort and safety, deck-mounted baggage racks are also installed in the main and upper passenger saloons.
Impressive colour plasma monitors allow main deck passengers to view either local television or video/DVD entertainment. Another large plasma screen and four smaller LCD monitors are fitted on the upper deck. The monitors can be linked to a camera on the wheelhouse roof, showing all passengers the view ahead of the vessel.
Other onboard facilities include a main deck kiosk and toilets on both decks. One toilet on the main deck is arranged for disabled use and is fitted with a call button which is monitored at the main deck kiosk. A flip over baby change table is also provided.
Each ferry operates with a crew of eight, including five in the bridge which features maximum vision and an electronics package incorporating two X-band radars, electronic charting, night vision and a day and night sailing recording system.
Four MTU 16V 4000 diesels driving Kamewa waterjets provide a service speed of 42 knots, allowing the crossing from Hong Kong to Macau to be completed in approximately 55 minutes. First Ferry (Macau)’s operational experience has proved the excellent seakeeping performance of the Austal hull
design and led to its decision not to fit the retractable ride control fins that feature on the earlier vessels.
The two catamarans commenced service on 10 September 2004 and to celebrate their arrival First Ferry (Macau) treated 86 sets of twins in Hong Kong and Macau to a memorable ride to Macau on board one of the new vessels.