Austal announced a major break-through in the use of fast ferry technology, securing a three-year contract with Military Sealift Command of the United States Military for “WestPac Express” - the 101 metre high speed Theatre Support Vessel. This is the first time the US Military has contracted a commercial vessel of this type for military support. The three-year contract follows an extensive trial of the vessel during a ‘proof of concept’ charter period entered into between Austal and the US Military in July 2001.
Austal has been focusing extensively on developing vessels for military use, recognising the superior applications high speed ferries provide to move large numbers of troops and support vehicles in one lift, compared to many movements with traditional vessels or aircraft. The vessel, according to Austal, has consistently exceeded the expectations of the US Marine Corps demonstrating the effectiveness of Austal’s high speed Theatre Support Vessel for the rapid deployment of troops and equipment. “WestPac Express” enables to rapidly transport a complete battalion of more than 950 marines together with up to 550 tonnes of vehicles and equipment in one lift.
“WestPac Express” will be re-flagged in the United States during the course of the contract, establishing a benchmark as the first commercial vessel of this type to be registered and flagged in the United States.