Tahiti shipowner builds interisland ferry in Philippines
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, January 2, 2018
The Henderson, Western Australia-based shipbuilder, Austal Limited, posted on December 28, 2017, to their corporate webpage a press release, “New passenger ferry contract from SNC Aremiti celebrates Austal’s fifth vessel for French Polynesia,” announcing finalization of a newbuild contract with French Polynesian shipowner SARL Aremiti Transport. The vessel will be built at Austal’s Philippine yard for Australian $30 million (U.S. $ 23.4 million).
Aremiti currently operates a ferry service between the Gare Maritime de Pape’ete (Pape’ete Ferry Terminal), Tahiti Island, and Vai’are Wharf, Mo’orea Island, with two fast catamaran ferries (the AREMITI 5 and AREMITI FERRY 2) over the 9.2 nautical mile route between the two Islands in the Society Group. Each vessel makes 5 rotations per day. Aremiti means “wings of the ocean” in the Tahitian language.
Aremiti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Le Groupe Degage, a local diversified corporate group based in Papeete, owned by the Degage family of French Polynesia and led by Eugene Degage. The Group also operates a cargo shipping service to the Tuamotu Archipelago (Angieray & CIE) with two vessels (DORY & AUTRES), a passenger service to the Tuamotu Archipelago (Degage & CIE) with two vessels (COBIA & AREMITI 1), a local air charter service (Tahiti Air Charter), a maintenance facility in Pape’ete for maritime and commercial vehicles (Tahiti Mecanique & Maintenance), and a travel agency (Ratere).
The Aremiti ferry service between Pape’ete and Mo’orea operates in competition with SNGV 2 Mo’orea’s TEREVAU, which is a high speed catamaran operating 6 rotations per day.
Established in 1988, Austal, with headquarters in the Perth suburb of Henderson, designs and builds high speed aluminum vessels in mono-hull, catamaran and trimaran configurations. They operate three shipyards. Defense vessels are designed and constructed in Henderson and Mobile, Alabama. Commercial vessels are constructed in Balamban City, Cebu Island, the Philippines.
The Austal USA Inc. shipyard in Mobile Bay, Alabama, was established in 1999 to build ships in the U.S. for the U.S. Navy as is required by law. Today Austal USA builds the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) for the US Navy.
In 2011, Austal acquired a major shipbuilding facility at Balamban to construct high speed passenger, vehicle-passenger ferries, offshore crew transfer and windfarm vessels for commercial markets worldwide.
The Austal USA yard specializing in defense shipbuilding constructed for the Hawaii Superferry Inc. two high speed catamarans for commercial inter Hawaiian Island ferry service, the ALAKAI (2007) and the HUAKAI (2009), for a total reported cost of U.S. $160 million or $80 million apiece. Hawaii Superferry was required to build its vessels in the U.S. by the Jones Act.
Although the cost of the Hawaii Superferry vessels were nearly four times the cost of the instant Aremiti catamaran, there are significant differences in the size of the vessels. For example, the ALAKAI is 349 feet in length and has a capacity of 866 passengers and 282 autos. In comparison, the AREMITI TBN will be 160 feet in length and have a capacity of 620 passengers and 30 motorbikes and autos.
In addition, the sea routing and conditions are very different. The Pape’ete / Mo’orea passage is 9.2 nautical miles over generally calm seas, while the ALAKAI routing between Honolulu (Oahu Island) and Kahului (Maui Island) is 67 nautical miles over generally very rough seas. As such, the Hawaii Superferry vessels had to have greater endurance and be of more robust construction.
However, the significantly lower construction cost at the Austal Philippine yard has enabled French Polynesian operators to acquire several high speed catamaran vessels and operate competitive interisland services without government subsidy.
It’s also noteworthy that the Pape’ete / Mo’orea fast ferries make between 5 and 6 rotations per day producing a very high utilization factor and justifying the cost of operating a high speed as compared to the single rotation that the ALAKAI typically performed each day. The revenues generated by multiple daily rotations make the operation feasible.
Key excerpts from Austal:
Austal Limited (ASX:ASB) today announced that long-standing client and French Polynesia’s leading commercial ferry operator, SNC Aremiti (part of the Groupe Degage), has awarded a AU$30 million contract to Austal to design and build a new 49 metre high-speed passenger catamaran ferry.
This will be the fifth vessel Austal has delivered to French Polynesia since 2002. Austal has previously designed and built four vessels for the Groupe Degage comprising two 69 metre monohull cruise ships, a 56 metre vehicle passenger catamaran ferry, and an 80 metre vehicle passenger catamaran ferry.
This Austal design features seating capacity for 620 passengers and garage space for up to 30 motorbikes, small vehicles and cargo. With a top speed of 36 knots it will be fitted with Austal’s Ride Control System to improve seakeeping and provide greater passenger comfort on the Papeete – Moorea route in French Polynesia.
The vessel will be designed in Australia and construction of the vessel will commence at Austal Philippines during 2018, with delivery scheduled for July 2019.
”This contract not only continues a successful relationship between Austal and SNC Aremiti but further confirms the company’s leadership position in the international high-speed ferry market” Austal CEO, David Singleton said.
“Austal has always been an export-focused company. We have sold ships to every corner of the globe this year including Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Norway, the Canary Islands and now Tahiti. I am confident that we will continue to build on the success of 2017 for an even better 2018” Mr Singleton added.
“This order from SNC Aremiti caps off an incredibly successful year for our international commercial ferry business. We have added eight new vessels, worth more than AU$380 million, to our order book in the past 12 months, including two trimarans of 117 metres in length and a 109 metre catamaran. We also recently signed an MOU with JR Kyushu of Japan for an 80 metre trimaran.” said Austal VP Sales & Marketing, Ben Marland.