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Birkenhead ferry users can look forward to faster and more reliable trips from December, with the Fuller Group's purchase of a high-speed catamaran for $2 million.

The 24m Wanderer, capable of carrying 180 passengers under cover, will be used for both peak-time commuter runs between Birkenhead and Auckland via Northcote Pt and for tourist cruises after its delivery voyage from Tasmania.

It is a sister vessel to the 29m Adventurer, which arrived late last year at a purchase cost of $3 million and has drawn what Fullers says has been considerable praise from commuters such as on the Half Moon Bay ferry run from East Auckland.

Chief executive Doug Hudson said yesterday that although his company did not generally buy second-hand vessels, the 11-year-old Wanderer had been well looked after by a tourism operator which used it for cruises through a world heritage area up Tasmania's spectacular Gordon River.

With air-conditioning and spacious interior, it would be three or four knots faster than the Quickcat II and other vessels it will replace on the Birkenhead run.