WASHINGTON: The Navy has awarded Austal USA a $128 million contract to design and construct a new auxiliary floating dry dock, marking a major win for the company’s newly opened steel facilities and adding precious maintenance capacity for the service.
“Combined with our contract for the [towing, salvage and rescue ship] program, the [Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock Medium] award is evidence of our expanding capability and focus on delivering a diverse portfolio of solutions to our customers, from combatants to dry docks. We are looking forward to providing the U.S. Navy with an exceptional floating dry dock using our lean manufacturing approach,” said Austal President Rusty Murdaugh in a statement Monday.
The service awarded the detailed design and construction contract on June 17 and, according to the Pentagon announcement, received two bids. The Defense Department does not routinely disclose the names of companies that compete for work and fail to win a contract.
The new floating dock will have an 18,000 long tons (just under 20,000 tons) lifting capacity with 90,800 square feet of working area, according to Austal. The dock will have an overall length of 694 feet, pontoon breadth of 157 feet and a height of 65 feet from baseline to wing deck.
The new vessel’s award is important for two reasons. For Austal, it will be the second program that utilizes the company’s new steel shipbuilding facilities which officially opened in April at Austal’s campus in Mobile, Ala. The shipbuilder has historically produced the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships and Expeditionary Fast Transports, both of which are made from aluminum. The Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ships will be the first steel vessels the company produces. The new floating dry dock contract represents the second win and will be an important boon to ensuring the new steel production lines stay hot.
For the Navy, the award represents desperately needed additional dry dock space for ship maintenance, an issue with which the service has historically struggled. The floating dry dock will be capable of servicing cruisers, destroyers, Littoral Combat Ships and dock landing ships, according to Navy budget justification documents. It also capitalizes on the $50 million deal the Pentagon and Austal reached in June 2020 to expand the shipbuilding industrial base by helping the company establish new steel shipbuilding facilities.