After Two Years of COVID Delays, Fast Ferry Finally Launches in Japan

Austal Queen Beetle
Image courtesy Austal

Published Nov 11, 2022 6:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two years after it was delivered by Australia’s shipbuilder Austal in September 2020, the trimaran ferry Queen Beetle finally entered international service transporting passengers between Fukuoka in southwest Japan and Busan, South Korea.

As part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Japan-South Korea route has been suspended since March 9, 2020, meaning the 83-meter high-speed trimaran ferry has only been operating in local waters since its delivery. The ferry was being used as a pleasure boat in Fukuoka Bay and between Hakata and Moji in Kita-Kyushu.

JR Kyushu Jet Ferry said it decided to resume operations due to the recent relaxation of border measures and will be offering service on the Fukuoka-Busan route, albeit starting with a special weekend-only schedule. On its maiden voyage, the Queen Beetle had 130 passengers on board.

“As more customers from South Korea are expected to come to Japan for shopping and dining, we’d like to create a timetable that accommodates their needs,” said Masayuki Mizuno, JR Kyushu Jet Ferry President.

Built by Austal at a cost of $43 million, the trimaran ferry was the first of its kind to be delivered to Japan and is custom-designed for a level of comfort previously unavailable on any ferry in Japan.

The trimaran hull design allows up to 502 passengers to board and enjoy the amenities, including lounges, bars, a kiosk, a retail shop and a playground, while cruising at speeds up to 37 knots.

The JR Kyushu Jet Ferry, a subsidiary of JR Kyushu Group, started the route in 1991 and a total of over 6.5 million people have used the service to date.

Both Japan and South Korea have largely removed COVID-19 restrictions, and the latter has announced the normalization and reopening of ports to allow entry and disembarkation of foreign tourists on cruise ships.