Damen Shipyards has been contracted by Penang Port Sdn Bhd, Malaysia, to build up to five RoPax ferries to replace the current fleet that has reached its end of life. The new vessels have been specially designed to meet the requirements of the client and its passengers. They will operate on the ferry route that links the Malaysian Peninsula (Butterworth) with Penang Island and its city of George Town, Malaysia’s third largest, just a ten minute journey away.Designated the Damen Ferry 3508, the new class is designed to carry a maximum of 250 passengers both sitting and standing and 50 vehicles (scooters and motor bikes) in a mix of air-conditioned and open but sheltered areas.Damen has worked closely with Penang Port Sdn Bhd to ensure that their new vessels are configured to meet the needs of their customers in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. To achieve this Damen conducted a thorough assessment not only of their operations and infrastructure, but also their customers’ wishes. The new fleet will deliver a combined passenger and vehicular service with departures every 15 minutes in peak periods while, at quieter times of day, it will be perfectly feasible to take a ferry out of service, bringing further cost savings with minimal inconvenience to the travelling public. Standardising the design also delivers a wide range of operational efficiencies when it comes to redundancy, maintenance, spare parts, crew training and operating costs, not to mention the cost and duration of the build itself without any compromise on performance or quality.The new ferries will, pandemics permitting, be delivered in mid-2023 ready to serve an estimated 2.5 million pedestrians and 1.5 million two-wheeler vehicles each year. Damen will also be assisting in upgrading the ferry terminals with time-saving technology such as auto berthing and berthing pontoons with fast ramp control. As part of the overall package, Damen will provide one year’s technical support for Penang Port Sdn. Bhd’s new fleet once it is delivered. To ensure 24/7 operability, Damen will establish a local maintenance hub to keep the vessels in top working condition. Over time personnel will be recruited and trained so that local engineers will have all the skills and knowledge necessary to maintain the vessels into the future.