In late September, Austal Ships, Henderson, Australia, launched the first Austal Express 127, a 127-meter (419’) trimaran. Built for Fred. Olsen S.A., a Norwegian ferry operator based in the Canary Islands, the new boat was christened the Benchijigua Express on Nov. 5. Considered by Austal to be “the most significant vessel yet to arrive on the world fast ferry scene,” the new boat is currently undergoing sea trials in Australia. After that, the boat will run to Spain’s Canary Islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa.
Powered by four MTU diesel engines providing a total of 44,000 hp, the trimaran’s projected service speed is over 40 knots while carrying up to 1,350 passengers and over 340 cars and “a substantial number of trucks,” according to Austal.
Justin Merrigan, Austal’s marketing officer, described the propulsion package: “The MTU engines are arranged in two separate engine rooms in the trimaran’s central hull. Those in the aft engine room will each drive a [Rolls Royce] Kamewa 125 SII steerable waterjet, while the two forward engines deliver their combined power to a Kamewa 180BII booster waterjet. Each of the three drivelines features Renk transmissions with lightweight composite shafts fitted between the waterjets and gearboxes and on the output shaft of the forward-most engine.”
The trimaran hull form is a first for Austal, which is well known for its catamaran designs and construction. The boat is also the largest ever built by Austal and “the largest aluminum ship ever built,” according to the company.
Fred. Olsen has operated large catamarans since 1999, but, according to Austal, “identified some limitations” of the cats, particularly in capacity and passenger comfort when operating in rough seas.
Austal and Olsen cooperated on a research program to develop a new concept for high-speed vessels that combined the comfort provided by the soft movement of monohulls with the low resistance and good stability and carrying capacity of catamarans. The result is a slender, stabilized monohull, referred to as a trimaran.
The new trimaran hull form of the Austal Express 127 will also be used for one of the littoral combat ship designs to be built for the U.S. Navy.
— Bruce Buls