Mobile, Ala. shipbuilder Austal USA hosted a ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new facility which adds steel shipbuilding capability to the company’s well-established aluminum shipbuilding expertise.
“We are so excited to see our plans to add steel to our capabilities come to fruition,” said Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh. “The addition of steel capability is a game changer as it opens up our capability to support the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and other customers with high-quality ships. We appreciate the confidence the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy have shown in us with the award of the DPA grant to get this project started and look forward to repaying that confidence with our future performance delivering high-quality steel ships.”
The 117,000 square foot manufacturing addition will house the latest state-of-the-art computerized and robotic steel processing equipment to handle all of the current and future demands of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. A 60,000 square foot stock yard will be utilized for handling the raw steel and a 19,500 square foot paint facility will provide the ability to paint and blast simultaneously in two separate cells, or both cells can be combined providing the ability to paint super-modules.
“Austal USA will operate our steel production line using the same lean manufacturing principles that we’ve refined over the last 15 years building LCS and EPFs for the Navy,” Murdaugh said. “That process has resulted in Austal’s reputation for delivering quality ships on time and on budget ship after ship. We will bring that same reliable production capability to steel ship construction.”
Austal has delivered 15 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and 12 Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPF) to the Navy while another seven total aluminum Navy ships are under construction. The company is also under contract to build two Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ships (T-ATS); these will be the first steel ships constructed in the new facility.
Financing for the new steel production line was provided in part by a Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III Agreement between the U.S. Department of Defense, in support of the U.S. Navy shipbuilding industrial base, and Austal USA. The agreement, valued at $50 million, was announced in June 2020 and was part of the national response to COVID-19 to maintain, protect, and expand critical domestic shipbuilding and maintenance capacity. Austal USA matched these funds and invested an additional $50 million into the completion of the steel facility.
“The opening of the new steel manufacturing line at Austal USA means south Alabama will be able to continue providing high-quality ships for the Navy,” said Rep. Jerry Carl. “This massive $100 million investment will also create jobs and spur economic growth throughout the region, while continuing to develop and grow our local workforce with the hiring of countless folks in the trades to meet the demands of the new line. With increasing security threats around the world, the work being done by shipbuilders like Austal USA is even more important now than ever before. That’s why ensuring they are able to continue competing for future Navy programs is one of my top priorities in Congress. I’m proud of the incredible work being done right here in my district, and I look forward to seeing south Alabama become a major player when it comes to steel shipbuilding.”
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