WESTERN Australian ship builder Austal Ships announced this week 10 years ago it was looking to win two orders for passenger-only ferries from customers on Kyushu Island in Japan. The group has a regional office in Tokyo and delivered the first Australian-built ferry to Japan last year, a 43-metre craft called the Speeder, which is now used for regular commuter service between the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. Closer to home, Melbourne-based Bass Ferry Project contacted Austal to enquire about the possibility of manufacturing a passenger ferry for the route between Melbourne and Tasmania. Austal manager marketing and sales, Chris Pemberton, said the company was currently examining the build options to see if these were viable for Bass Strait. BFP spokesman John Stirling said Austal had been receptive to its enquiry and had agreed to look at both catamaran and mono-hull designs.
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