PERTH-headquartered Austal’s US subsidiary has begun the next phase of a major expansion of it ship-building capabilities in Mobile, Alabama.

Design work began on Tuesday [6 February] for infrastructure expansion, which will be to the south of Austal USA’s current waterfront facility and will include a new assembly building, waterfront improvements, and a new shiplift system.  Start of construction on the project is planned for summer 2024. 

The construction of the new building and waterfront support area, which includes a Pearlson-designed shiplift, continues the expansion Austal USA began in March 2021 with the groundbreaking of the steel panel line.

In addition to the manufacturing capacity of the new buildings, the shiplift will provide a safe and reliable system to launch ships as they are completed in the assembly buildings. The system will also enable retrieving ships and bringing them back on the land-side facility, the company says.   

“With the steel panel line in full production our expansion focus has shifted to the erection and launch facilities required to support our growing backlog,” Austal USA acting president Michelle Kruger said. 

The new assembly building will consist of three bays and enable erection of recently awarded steel ship contracts as well as provide the flexibility to manufacture modules for submarine and other surface ship programs.  The assembly building will be approximately 400 feet long by 480 feet wide providing over 192,000 square feet of covered manufacturing space occupying four and a half acres. 

The Pearlson-designed shiplift system will feature an articulated lifting platform approximately 450 feet long by 125 feet wide, capable of lifting and launching vessels in excess of 18,000 long tons. This capacity will facilitate the launch and docking of the U.S. Navy Constellation-class Frigates, TAGOS-25 class Ocean Surveillance Ships, Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships, and the U.S. Coast Guard Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutters.

When complete Austal USA’ s Mobile, Ala. facility will include a 117,000 square foot steel panel line, two module manufacturing facilities totaling over one million square feet of covered manufacturing space optimized for serial production, and seven assembly bays providing over 400,000 square feet of indoor erection space.  In all, the Mobile facility covers 180 acres and, when this project is complete, over 1.5 million square feet of indoor manufacturing space. 

Austal USA has won a number of recent defence contracts from the US Navy, including one of $1.28 billion for the design and construction of three expeditionary medical ships, a $143 million contract for the construction of landing craft utility-class ships (this follows an earlier design contract and could be extended to nine vessels); and a $104 million contract for a fifth towing, salvage and rescue vessel.

Last June the company said construction had commenced on the steel Auxiliary Floating Dock Medium, which would further demonstrate Austal USA’s capabilities and capacity to deliver large steel vessels for the USN and US Coast Guard. Austal USA was also delivering submarine modules for the Virginia-class submarines and aircraft elevators for the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers.