The 107-meter Auto Express vehicle-passenger catamaran, launched at Austal’s Mobile, Alabama facility on January 18, for the Hawaii Superferry Corporation has been officially named Alakai (Hawaiian for “ocean path”). The ferry will now transit to the Hawaiian Islands to commence service later this summer. In April, Alakai successfully completed sea trials conducted in the Gulf of Mexico. There were numerous challenges involved in completing the largest aluminium ship built to date in the USA to ensure adherence to stringent weight controls and construction standards Austal is renowned for in its high performance vessels. It quickly became evident that the American design and construction team had indeed set a high standard when the ferry was put to the test in Gulf waters. At 90% MCR (maximum engine power) the ferry achieved 40 knots (two knots above contractual requirements) with operating deadweight onboard and an installed active Ride Control System. The ferry consistently averaged 42.5 knots at 100% MCR during the course of trials. “A new era of inter-island travel and transportation has begun with the christening of “Alakai,” said Hawaii Superferry President and Chief Executive Officer, John Garibaldi, at the Christening Ceremony held in Mobile on April 14. In conjunction with the christening, the Governor of Alabama, the Mayor of Mobile and the County Commission of Mobile issued three separate proclamations declaring the day Hawaii Superferry plans to use Austal fast ferry technology to establish Hawaii’s first high-speed vehicle-passenger service. Each catamaran can carry 866 passengers and up to 282 cars (or a combination of 28 twelve-meter (40’) trucks and 65 cars) and provide services connecting Honolulu to Maui and Kauai in three hours and from Honolulu to the Big Island in approximately four hours. The second ferry will begin service in early 2009. With the entry into service of the second ferry, two round trips per day between Maui and Oahu and one round trip per day between Kauai and Oahu and the Island of Hawaii and Oahu will be offered. With a draft of 3.6 meters (11’8”) and a beam of 24 meters (78’), the ferry will commute between the Hawaiian Islands at speeds up to 40 knots. The vessel is four decks high, including two decks for the car and truck loading, one deck for passengers and the bridge deck reserved for the pilot and his crew. The 2nd deck or mezzanine deck is 2/3 hoistable in order to facilitate parking for lighter cars and leave maximum parking space for the larger trucks.