• Austal USA has officially opened new a steel shipbuilding facility at the company’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama. (Austal USA)
    Austal USA has officially opened new a steel shipbuilding facility at the company’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama. (Austal USA)

Austal USA has officially opened the company’s new steel shipbuilding facility in Mobile, Alabama, enabling the simultaneous production of both aluminium and steel hulled ships.

The first vessels to be built in the new 11,000 square metre manufacturing facility will be two Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ships (T-ATS) for the United States Navy, which were placed under a US$144 million (A$193 million) contract in October 2021. 

Austal Limited Chief Executive Officer Paddy Gregg said the opening of the new steel facility marked a significant development in Austal USA’s shipbuilding capabilities, allowing multiple steel vessel projects to be undertaken, in addition to aluminium vessels.

“Austal USA is now ready to start constructing steel ships for the US Navy, including the Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ships (T-ATS) ships; and can offer this expanded shipbuilding capability to new customers such as the United States Coast Guard,” Gregg said.

“Our warmest congratulations go to Rusty Murdaugh and the entire Austal USA team after establishing this impressive new facility so quickly and efficiently.”

“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 US Navy, US Coast Guard and other customers with high-quality ships.

“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. 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."

Financing for the new steel shipbuilding facility was provided in part by a Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III Agreement between the United States Department of Defense, and Austal USA. The agreement, valued at US$50 million (A$67 million), was announced in June 2020. Austal USA matched these funds and invested an additional US$50 million into the completion of the steel facility.

The new steel manufacturing facility includes the latest in computerised and robotic steel processing equipment. A 6,000 square metre stock yard will be utilised for handling the raw steel and a 2,000 square metre 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.

The addition of steel shipbuilding capability complements the company’s well-established aluminium shipbuilding expertise, which includes the delivery of 15 Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and 12 Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transports (T-EPF) to the United States Navy. The company has a further seven ships currently under construction at the shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

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