Australian shipbuilder Austal has finalised a A$68m ($53m) contract with Japan’s JR Kyushu Jet Ferry to design and build an 83m trimaran ferry.

The development is the result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the parties in December last year.

Once completed, the ferry will be able to carry 502 passengers with an operational speed of 37k.

The vessel will be deployed to serve JR Kyushu Jet Ferry’s major strategic route between Fukuoka, Japan, and Busan, South Korea.

It will be equipped with a customised interior, developed by Japanese designer Eiji Mitooka from Don Design Associates.

Construction of the vessel is expected to begin this year, while deployment is scheduled to take place by 2020.

“We are seeing a transformation in the market and genuine customer enthusiasm for the proven technology, efficiency, and capability of our design.”

Austal sales and marketing vice-president Ben Marland said: “This is the first high-speed trimaran ferry we have placed into Japan and we are delighted to be partnered with JR Kyushu Jet Ferry on this prestigious route.

“With nine Austal trimarans already in operation around the world, another seven under construction, and now five on order, it’s fair to say we are seeing a transformation in the market and genuine customer enthusiasm for the proven technology, efficiency, and capability of our design.”

In January, Aulong Shipbuilding, a joint venture company between Austal and Guandong Jianglong Shipbuilding of China, secured contracts worth A$20m ($15m) in total to build four new high-speed ferries.

The ferries will be owned by China’s Xidao Dazhou Tourism.