Austal Plans Massive Expansion With New Assembly Hall and Shiplift

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Austal USA has released new details of its plan to expand its shipyard to accommodate more steel-construction work, giving it the capacity to bid on more U.S. Navy and government contracts. 

The new expansion will be on the south side of Austal’s plant in Mobile, Alabama, and it will include a new assembly hall, new waterside improvements and a shiplift for launching newbuilds. 

The 190,000 square foot hall will cover four acres at a site adjacent to Austal’s existing plant. Its construction will bring Austal’s total covered assembly space to 1.5 million square feet.

The new Pearlson shiplift will be the largest on the Gulf Coast, and the widest in North and South America. It can be expanded later if needed, according to the yard. 

All told, the improvements are said to cost about $250 million. The facility will be set up for constructing steel vessels, a departure from Austal’s aluminum fast-ferry roots. After issues with hull cracking aboard all-aluminum patrol vessels, the Pentagon has helped pay for Austal to expand into steel work. 

“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,” said Austal USA Acting President Michelle Kruger in a statement. 

Austal discussed plans for the expansion last year, and today’s announcement adds new details. Work on the project should begin this summer.  

An illustration released by the yard shows a Constellation-class frigate on the shiplift, a vessel class which Austal does not currently build. The yard is a rumored top contender to become the Navy’s “follow-on” contractor to build these Fincantieri-designed warships, in parallel with current builder Marinette Marine. In a statement, Austal said that the specifications of the lift would be able to handle the Constellation-class, along with the vessel classes for which it currently holds contracts (T-AGOS-25, Independence-class and Offshore Patrol Cutter). 

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