Austal’s trimaran milestone

AUSTAL has completed sea trials of its 127-metre aluminium trimaran vessel for delivery to UK-based high-speed ferry operator Fred Olsen. The trials bode well for the local ship-builder’s prospects of securing another US Department of Defense contract, according to the company. The construction of the $100 million vessel, named the Benchijigua Express, represents the realisation of a five-year research and development program for Austal, and comprises a majority of the company’s 2005 revenues. The development program has also resulted in the successful completion of the world’s largest trimaran hull and largest aluminium vessel, according to Austal chairman John Rothwell. “We are certainly really pleased with the final outcome. The level of performance is beyond even our expectations,” he said. According to Mr Rothwell, the success of the vessel is significantly related to a contract with the US Department of Defense. “With a potential 60 LCS vessels to be built over the next 15 years the success of Benchijigua Express provides enormous support in our efforts to be a major force in the supply of these vessels and to grow Austal’s military shipbuilding presence internationally,” Mr Rothwell said. Austal was awarded the $US79 million design contract in May last year, together with US-based General Dynamics, which is responsible for the vessel’s systems development. Austal is the designer and builder for the General Dynamics team that secured the design contract for the littoral combat ship vessels, which share the same trimaran hull as the Benchijigua. Mr Rothwell is confident the company will also be awarded the follow-on construction contract in October, for one or two of the vessels. The consortium is competing with well-known US defence contractor Lockheed Martin for the final contract to build 60 of the LCS ships. If successful in securing the final construction contract, Austal will build a new facility in the US to cope with the demand, Mr Rothwell said. The defence work represents the bulk of Austal’s forward revenue for the coming years, according to the company’s annual report. The handover of this latest ferry comes just before the delivery of the first Royal Australian Navy patrol boat built in the Fremantle shipyard, due to depart for Darwin in the coming weeks.

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