In Patagonia

New ferry improves travel in Chile's deep south

The 230-foot vessel will connect Punta Arenas with Puerto Williams, the world’s southernmost town.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 Category: Tourism - Technology
The new ferry will make it easier to get to Puerto Williams. (Photo: AnaLuciaJimenez/Flickr) The new ferry will make it easier to get to Puerto Williams. (Photo: AnaLuciaJimenez/Flickr)

A new ferry launched in Chilean Patagonia will improve transport between mainland Chile and the southernmost town in the world, Puerto Williams.

The ferry will connect Punta Arenas, which sits on the Strait of Magellan, with Puerto Williams, located on Isla Navarino, in a cruise journey lasting 28 hours.

Named Yaghan in honor of the local indigenous people, the US$8.5 million vessel made its maiden voyage to the end of the world earlier this week, where it was received enthusiastically by locals.

Built at the Chilean navy's shipyard in Valdivia, the Yaghan measures 230 feet (70m) and is capable of carrying 75 passengers on long haul cruises and 200 passengers on shorter trips. It can also transport up to 70 motor vehicles.

Pedro Lecaros, president of the ferry operator TABSA, told MercoPress that the new service was building on centuries of navigating history in Chile's scenic southern islands.

“This is a historic route used by great navigators like the indigenous Yaghan people, in whose honor the ferry is named,” he said.

“They were brave canoe people who travelled throughout this region and its channels, and this is just a modest acknowledgement of their talent, navigation skills and courage.”

The ferry will operate from a US$3 million terminal in Puerto Williams that was opened by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera last month.

The terminal is equipped with a 32,000-square foot esplanade, a waiting area for passengers, and two mooring posts to improve flow and reduce boarding times.

At the launch of the terminal, President Piñera also promised several other infrastructure projects for Puerto Williams, including an upgrade to the town's main jetty to enable larger cruise vessels dock there and a new wharf for local fishing companies.

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