Australian shipbuilder Austal has signed an agreement to construct a high speed vehicle and passenger catamaran for Trinidad and Tobago.

Under the AUD 97.7 million contract with the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO), which is owned by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago’s (GORTT), the shipbuilder would design and build the 94-metre vessel, scheduled to be delivered in mid-2020.

The ship, designated AutoExpress, is to provide high speed passenger and vehicle operations on the key sea bridge between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The unit is a derivative of the two 109-metre AutoExpress ships designed in the last 2 years by Austal following an intensive development program and therefore incorporates many of the same design features.

AutoExpress will be built in Austal’s new shipyard in Vung Tau, Vietnam, which commenced operations on November 1, 2018. As a result of the contract, Austal now expects that the new shipyard in Vietnam will be profitable in its first year of operations and to quickly expand to over 450 people from just under 100 employed currently.

The new unit is designed to carry 926 passengers and 250 cars at speeds of 37.5 knots. It would operate a daily service between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

The contract follows an initial announcement by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago reported in September 2018. Subsequently NIDCO funded a limited program of early works to protect the delivery schedule of the vessel.

NIDCO intend to finance the vessel through an export loan from Australia’s Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).

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