A Western Australian built support vessel for the United States Marine Corps and United States Military Sealift Command has concluded its 16-year charter and will now go into service with Irish Ferries.
Austal's 101-metre Theatre Support Vessel (TSV), WestPac Express, which has been owned by Irish Continental Group since 2016, was delivered to the United States Marine Corps (USM) Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) in 2001.
The vessel has played a key role in humanitarian and disaster relief missions in the Asia Pacific region, including the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, which killed 26 Australians, and the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami in Japan.
Austal chief executive officer David Singleton said the vessel’s early success played a key factor in catapulting Austal's development and led the company to develop the 103-metre Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), now the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), for the US Navy and more recently the 72-metre High Speed Support Vessel for the Royal Navy of Oman.
“The WestPac Express was one of the vessels that turbocharged Austal’s development as a high-technology defence exporter of world renown," Singleton said.
"The WestPac Express has had the longest single charter with the US Marines and has achieved a remarkable 99.8 per cent availability with them.
"The success and durability of this vessel is a testament to Austal’s in-house design team, that is delivering next generation technology and setting the international benchmark for high speed, high performance passenger ferries."
The WestPac Express will be replaced by the Austal designed and built USNS Guam, a vessel that was formerly with Hawaii Superferry as the Huakai.
In addition to the WestPac Express, Austal has delivered eight out of 12 103-metre EPF vessels to the US Navy as well as two 72-metre High Speed Support Vessels to the Royal Navy of Oman.