Austal USA opens steel shipbuilding facility

(MOBILE, Ala.) — Austal USA hosted a curtain-drop ceremony on April 12 to celebrate the opening of the company’s new steel facility in front of over 200 guests, including representatives from the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, federal, state and local government, and the embassy of Australia.

“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.”

Austal USA photo

“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 computerized and robotic steel processing equipment to handle all of the current and future demands of the Navy and the 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,” said Murdaugh. “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 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 Department of Defense, in support of the 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.

– Austal USA

By Rich Miller