Austal and mtu presented World's Most Powerful Diesel-powered High-speed Catamaran

Posted on April 06, 2004

On 6. April 2004, Austal Ships, one of the world's largest builders of aluminum ferries, and mtu, the leading engine supplier for fast ships, introduced the world's most powerful diesel-powered high-speed catamaran.
  • Innovative technologies lead to high performance
  • "Spirit of Ontario" cuts commute time by over 50%

On 6. April 2004, Austal Ships, one of the world's largest builders of aluminum ferries, and mtu, the leading engine supplier for fast ships, introduced the world's most powerful diesel-powered high-speed catamaran. Equipped with the most modern engines of its kind, the "Spirit of Ontario" will enable commuters to drastically reduce their travel time between Rochester, NY, and Toronto, ON. The ship servicing the Canadian American Transportation System will be the first super-ferry to be home-ported in the U.S. and lead the way to wider high-speed ferry use in major metropolitan areas.

Powered by four mtu 20 V 8000 diesel engines, the 284-foot catamaran allows for a loaded speed of 45.7 knots (52 mph/84 kph), carries 774 passengers and up to 238 cars or 10 full size trucks. With an estimated travel time of 2 hours and 15 minutes, the "Spirit of Ontario" will provide a safe, reliable and stress free alternative to driving, and cut commuter time by over 50 percent. Roll-on/ roll-off capabilities allow for a fast loading of the two vehicle decks. The two passenger decks are equipped with business travel amenities such as restaurants, bars, two movie theatres, and a variety of seating arrangements as well as satellite TV and Internet access.

A great alternative for commuters shunning congested highways and bridges, slow trains and buses, fast ferries are increasingly popular around the country. However, according to a survey conducted by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, high-speed ferries account for only 10% of the overall national US ferry fleet. With the option of taking cars, buses and trucks on board, more and more coastal and waterway communities will demand fast ferry transportation to keep traffic afloat.

Model of High-speed Vessel Technology

The super ferry is an outstanding example of high-speed vessel technology. Featuring the most modern engine in its category, it sets new standards in terms of innovation and fuel economy. The four mtu 20V Series 8000 cylinder diesel engines deliver a total propulsive power of 44,000 HP (32,800 kW) at a rated speed of 1150 rpm. The fuel consumption is below 195 g/kWh across a very broad power range and less than 190g/kWh at the most economical point, while keeping NOx emissions below the limits required by IMO (International Maritime Organization).

"High power density, advanced technology, reliability, and expert service and support are the most important criteria to high-speed shipbuilders", explained Bernard Bentgen, Vice President, Marine Sales in NAFTA for mtu. "mtu is the world's leader in innovative high-speed engines. Our clients have opted for our high quality products for decades, making us the market leader in the high speed marine business."

An acknowledged industry leader, Austal has already built well-over 80 fast ferries for customers all over the world, each of them tailored to the client's specific needs. The company's US shipyard, Austal USA, was established in 1999 to bring the company's aluminum shipbuilding expertise to the US commercial and military markets, providing new possibilities for passenger transport operators in the process. .

"Austal USA has already successfully completed six vessels including two high speed passenger catamarans that are operating here in New York," said Chris Pemberton, Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Austal USA. "We now have the capability to produce vessels such as 'Spirit of Ontario 1', which was built by Austal in Australia, here in the United States. In fact less than two weeks ago we launched our largest ferry yet, a 58-meter catamaran that will operate across Lake Michigan for Lake Express LLC."

Successful Partnership - Future Projects

Austal and mtu have successfully partnered on a number of prestigious projects. This fall, Austal will launch one of the world's largest high-speed ferries - a 126-meter high-speed trimaran accommodating 1350 passengers and over 340 cars - which will be taking up service in the Canary Islands for the Spanish ferry operator Fred. Olsen, SA. This breakthrough vessel, on which the Littoral Combat Ship design is based, will be powered by four mtu 20V Series 8000 diesel engines.

Four mtu 16V Series 4000 engines will also power the Lake Express ferry which has capacity for 248 passengers and 46 cars. With a speed of 34 knots, it will link the cities of Milwaukee, WI and Muskegon, MI in just over two hours, thus saving passengers a lengthy drive around the southern shore of Lake Michigan, including traffic congestion in Chicago.

Commercial and military organizations worldwide are gradually investing into high-speed vessel technology. High-powered multi-hull ships are the perfect candidate for public waterway transportation, coast guard and police patrols as well as military programs such as the Littoral Combat Ship or the Theatre Support Vessel.

About Austal Ships

Austal is a designer and manufacturer of high performance aluminum vessels, specializing in customized high-speed passenger and vehicle-passenger ferries, as well as a range of cruise yachts, patrol boats, large military vessels, crew/supply boats and luxury motor yachts. Austal is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and has four shipyards, including Austal USA which is located in Mobile, Alabama. For more information, please go to

About MTU Friedrichshafen

MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH is the leading part of the DaimlerChrysler Off-Highway Division and one of the world’s leading suppliers of diesel engines and complete drive systems for off-highway applications such as ships, heavy land-based and rail-bound vehicles and decentralized power generation systems. mtu holds a strong position in the marine markets being the world market leader for fast ferries with a share of over 50 percent and a supplier for 70 navies in the world. For more information, please go to