AUSTAL has launched a new catamaran that will transport passengers and cargo across French Polynesia.

Austal built Apetahi Express at its Vietnam shipyard for maritime and tourism operator Degage Group.

The 66-metre vessel is currently undergoing a final fit-out ahead of sea trials, which are scheduled for May.

Austal expects to deliver the vessel to Degage Group in June this year. It will be the sixth ferry Austal has built for the company.

Apetahi Express is scheduled to begin operations between Pape’ete and Vaitape in July 2023. 

Austal CEO Paddy Gregg said the new catamaran design is efficient and flexible, with a large cargo space that can hold up to 16 tonnes for inter-island transportation. Cargo can be loaded using two cranes.

“I know that the Degage Group, who have bought five ferries from Austal over the past couple of decades are excited about adding Apetahi Express to their fleet,” Mr Gregg said.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with them on this project.”

Austal Vietnam president Mark Dummett said the Apetahi Express is the third vessel constructed at the Vung Tau shipyard since it opened in 2018.

“The Austal Vietnam team have worked exceptionally hard to launch this new catamaran, for one of our most loyal commercial customers, the Degage Group, and I congratulate them all on a job well done – the ship looks fantastic,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to delivering the sixth ship from Austal to the Degage Group and seeing Apetahi Express sailing the beautiful waters of French Polynesia, soon.”

Apetahi Express has capacity for 574 passengers, and nine cabins for crew.

The vessel is fitted with four diesel engines, four waterjets, Austal’s Monitor Control System and the Marinelink-Connect progeam.

The five ferries Austal has previously built for Degage Group include two 69-metre monohull cruise ships, a 56-metre ro-pax catamaran and a 49-metre ro-pax ferry.