ASX-listed shipbuilder Austal has been awarded a contract to design and build a 66-metre high-speed catamaran ferry for The Degage Group of French Polynesia. The contract is worth €20.5 million (approximately $32.7 million)

Work on the vessel will begin in August 2021, with scheduled delivery in the first half of 2023.

Austal chief executive officer Paddy Gregg said the new contract from repeat customer The Degage Group was a strong indication of their satisfaction with Austal’s commercial ferry designs.

“Over the past two decades The Degage Group has trusted Austal to design and construct five ships for their growing maritime and tourism operations in French Polynesia, and we’re delighted they have again chosen Austal to develop their latest high-speed ferry,” Mr Gregg said.

“This contract is a clear demonstration of confidence in our Vietnam shipyard, which recently delivered its second commercial ferry within a period of just two years.”

The new Austal Passenger Express 66 catamaran features a length overall of 66.4 metres, beam of 15.2 metres and draft of 1.8 metres.

Over two passenger decks, the vessel can accommodate 574 passengers, with an additional 80 seats available on an external sun deck.

Crew accommodation includes seven two-berth cabins and two single-berth cabins. The vessel has four passenger access ramps and can carry up to 16 tonnes of cargo loaded via two cranes.

The new ferry will have a contracted top speed of 35.8 knots and a range of 360 nautical miles.

Austal has previously designed and built five vessels for The Degage Group: two 69-metre monohull cruise ships (Austal Hulls 172 and 173), a 56-metre vehicle passenger catamaran ferry (Austal Hull 266), an 80-metre vehicle passenger catamaran ferry (Austal Hull 201) and a 49-metre vehicle passenger ferry (Hull 421).

The new ferry will operate as the Apetahi Express, between Pape’ete (Tahiti) and Vaitape (Bora Bora).