Austal USA marked the beginning of a new era at its Mobile shipyard with the recent opening of a state-of-the-art facility for the production of steel ships for the U.S. Navy and other customers.
The addition of steel shipbuilding capability complements the company’s aluminum shipbuilding expertise at its Alabama manufacturing site.
“We are so excited to see our plans to add steel to our capabilities come to fruition,” Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh said. “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.“
Governor Kay Ivey joined Austal leaders and other guests, including representatives of the Navy, Coast Guard and the Embassy of Australia, at a ceremony on recently to formalize the opening of the steel facility. Governor Ivey said Austal’s new steel shipbuilding capability has echoes in Mobile’s history.
“During World War II, Mobile workers built steel Liberty ships that were critical to the war effort, and now, in the coming years, Austal will look to deliver steel ships, once again, needed by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy,” she said.
“Folks, Alabama stands behind Austal, and we stand behind our men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.”
Austal said the 117,000-square-foot manufacturing addition will house the latest computerized and robotic steel processing equipment to handle all current and future demands of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.
In addition, 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 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’s Alabama shipyard 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.
“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,” said U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl of Mobile.
“With increasing security threats around the world, the work being done by shipbuilders like Austal USA is even more important now than ever before,” he added.
Financing for the new steel production line was provided in part by a Defense Production Act (DPA) 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 invested an additional $50 million into steel facility project.
“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,” Murdaugh said.