On November 17, Mobile, Alabama-based Austal USA celebrated the grand opening of its new construction facility with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This event took place just 11 months to the day after breaking ground on the project on 17 January 2005.
Several notable VIPs participated in the ceremony, including: State of Alabama Director of Development Neal Wade, Mobile County Commission President Mike Dean, Mobile Mayor Sam Jones, John Rothwell (Austal Ltd. Executive Chairman), Greg Metcalf (CEO, Austal USA), Tom Bender (CEO, Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Co., Inc.) and Henry Seawell (CEO, Thompson Engineering, the company that was contracted for the design and construction of the expansion).
Austal Ltd.’s Executive Chairman, John Rothwell, who flew in for the event from Austal’s Head Office in Western Australia, commented, “I am both proud and excited to be a part of these festivities today. This new production facility signifies the bright future in both US defence and commercial aluminium shipbuilding that our company has ahead of us.”
Greg Metcalf, Austal USA CEO, added, “I am glad that we are now able to start repaying the local community for their contribution to our expansion. We have already increased our staff by more than half of the agreed new jobs and will continue to train and grow the USA workforce to meet the future demand expected for our ships.”
When added to the existing facility the new construction halls provides a combined total covered area of 16,500 square metres for ship production, roughly quadruple the existing facility. The expansion adds two large bays (each 41 metres wide) under a common roof for module fabrication / erection and component storage, connected by 2 mezzanine levels in the centre, and 2 mezzanines on the outboard sides for shop space, material storage, and small assembly fabrication; two additional launch aprons in front of each bay; a combined wharf (bulkhead) length of 238 metres; and additional overhead cranes capable of lifting 80-ton modules in each bay.
The new facility will be used to construct the recently announced order of a 127 metre Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the US Navy. Austal is the seaframe designer and builder as part of the General Dynamics Team. The official keel laying ceremony is expected to take place in early 2006.
The LCS will be the most advanced high-speed military craft in the world and is intended to operate in coastal areas globally. As a key part of the US Navy fleet, they will be highly manoeuvrable and configurable to support mine detection / elimination, anti-submarine, and surface warfare. The trimaran hullform enables the highest payload per displacement tonne of any previous US Navy warship. It is envisioned that LCS class vessels will comprise a substantial portion of the future Navy fleet.
In addition, on 28 October 2005, Austal announced that an unconditional contract was confirmed for the order of two Austal Auto Express, 107-meter vehicle-passenger ferries for Hawaii Superferry (HSF).
Construction of the first HSF ferry is underway in Austal USA’s existing shipbuilding facility.