Sparks flew Monday as Austal USA began work on its first steel ship — a U.S. Navy Navajo Class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ship (T-ATS 11) — using the new robotic-assisted and computerized layout in its steel panel line.
After building aluminum-hulled ships for the Navy and Coast Guard for some 20 years, Austal opened a companion steel panel line this spring, quickly winning contracts for the T-ATS ship and then a $3.3 billion contract for additional Coast Guard cutters
“It seems like only yesterday we were breaking ground on our steel shipbuilding facility and here we are, a little over a year later, beginning construction on our first steel ship,” said Dave Growden, Austal’s vice president of new construction. “Our shipbuilders are excited to demonstrate how effectively their talent and our proven processes translate to steel production.”
U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, who represents the Mobile area in Congress, was on hand for the ceremonies. “Thanks to our top-notch workforce and strong shipbuilding track record along the Gulf Coast, Austal USA is now providing world-class steel ships for the U.S. Navy. I look forward to seeing this ship completed and be put to good use for years to come,” Carl said.
Rear Adm. Tom Anderson, also on hand for the celebration, spoke about the importance of Austal USA moving into the steel ship market and praised the quality of the company’s ships.
Recapping the festivities, Austal described the new facilities, saying “Austal’s new 170,000-square-foot enclosed steel production facility houses state-of-the-art computerized and robotic steel processing equipment. The new facility will operate using Austal’s proven ship manufacturing processes and innovative methods that incorporate lean manufacturing principles, modular construction, and moving assembly lines. Modules for T-ATS will be built in the new steel production facility before being transported to the final assembly hall to be erected.”