The following is text of a news release from VT Halter Marine:
(PASCAGOULA, Miss.) — VT Halter Marine, a company of ST Engineering North America Inc. (STENA), laid the keel Tuesday to signify the commencement of construction for two auxiliary personnel lighter-small (APL(S)) berthing barges it is building for the U.S. Navy.
U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded VT Halter Marine a $77.9 million contract to design and build two firm units of the new class of berthing barges in September 2018, with options for another four. The first of these four options was exercised in February 2019, bringing the total value of this contract awarded to VT Halter Marine to $118 million.
Traditionally, the keel laying marks the ceremonial beginning of construction as it forms the ship’s backbone and is the first part of the vessel to be constructed. The company expects the first two vessels to be delivered in the third quarter of 2020, and the third unit to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“We are proud to serve our U.S. service men and women, so laying the keel on Flag Day for the APLs is most meaningful on this patriotic day. This is an important milestone to ensure our seamen have the best berthing accommodations. It is an honor for us to contribute to the safe welfare of our nation’s service men and women and to do our part for the nation’s defense,” said VT Halter Marine President and Chief Executive Officer Ronald Baczkowski.
When completed, the Navy will use these berthing barges to house crewmembers when ships are in port for maintenance and inter-deployment training cycles. They are mobile and can be towed to new bases or shipyards to support changing fleet requirements and also offer potential use for humanitarian missions and other temporary assignments.
The new vessels will be 269 feet long by 69 feet wide with a 7-foot draft. Additionally, the vessels will be capable of seating 228 enlisted personnel and 56 officers for each meal. Each vessel is equipped with offices, classrooms, washrooms, laundry facilities, medical treatment areas, a barber shop and a fitness center. The vessels are being fitted with mixed gender berthing spaces for 74 officers and 537 enlisted personnel, for a total of 611 people.