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Australian shipbuilder Austal has won a $68 million contract to design and build a ferry that will run between Japan and South Korea.

Austal says the new 83-metre trimaran ferry for JR Kyushu Jet Ferry of Japan will carry 502 passengers at an operational speed of 37 knots between Fukuoka, Japan and Busan, South Korea.

Construction of the vessel will start late this year. and services are scheduled to begin before the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Chief executive David Singleton said the contract marked a positive start to the year for the company, following a record year for commercial vessel sales in 2017.

“[The contract] reflects our continued focus as a technology-led organisation in developing industry-leading, customised solutions for commercial operators around the world,” Mr Singleton said on Monday.

“This exciting new vessel will deliver excellent seakeeping and an unparalleled customer experience to JR Kyushu’s ferry network.”

Vice president sales and marketing Ben Marland said Austal currently has nine trimarans already in operation around the world, seven under construction and 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,” Mr Marland said.