Shipbuilder Afai High Performance Ships has received orders to build three K50 catamarans from Incat Australia, another shipbuilder, at a cost of more than $500 million. The vessels will be built at Afai's joint-venture shipyard in China with Hong Kong-based Southern Shipping & Enterprise Co. The Panyu yard, on 50,000 square metres of land, employs about 120 workers and their numbers will be increased to meet the new orders. Afai's marketing manager, Anthony Szeto, said: 'We have said for ages that our products can match, if not better, the products from Australia and Norway. 'It took someone from a competing country to recognise that.' Incat, which has its own shipyard in Tasmania, Australia, has placed the orders with Afai because production of such vessels in Australia is not economical. The Australian Government, which has been paying a bounty or subsidy of about 5 per cent for each vessel built by local shipbuilders, is to remove the subsidy from July 1, 1997. The first K50 catamaran will be delivered in November 1997 and the other two vessels at intervals of six months after the first delivery. Incat is the market leader in the construction of car-carrying wave-piercing catamarans worldwide. The K50 catamaran, designed to travel on full loads at 50 knots, carrying 450 passengers and 90 cars, would be among the largest high-speed vessels built in Southeast Asia and China, second in Asia only to Japan's 101-metre AMD1500 'Hyabusa' built by Kawasaki, a statement from Afai said. Vitus Szeto, managing director of Afai, signed the deal with Incat's managing director, Robert Clifford, on Tuesday. Anthony Szeto said Afai, which started as a ship repairer in 1949, entered the shipbuilding business in the 1960s. The company built its first aluminium vessel in the 1980s. It is now serving between Hong Kong and China. Mr Szeto said the company was building vessels for the international market, especially for Latin American and European shipowners. He agreed the trend was for shipowners to build larger vessels, but there were only a limited number of shipyards in the world which could build large high-speed ferries made totally of aluminium. 'The next thing that people are looking at are cargo-carrying fast ferries,' Mr Szeto said. The company hired graduates from technical colleges in China and trained them to carry out Afai's shipyard work to its own style. Work on the new catamarans would also involve supervisors from Afai's Hong Kong office and Incat from Australia.