The launch of Independence (LCS 2) closely follows the recent delivery of the first Hawaii Superferry vessel. A 107 metre vehicle and passenger carrying aluminum catamaran, Hawaii Superferry is Austal USA’s largest construction project to date and is the largest high speed aluminum catamaran built in the USA. A second identical ferry is currently under construction and is scheduled for launch in September 2008.
The recent purchase of an adjacent 100 acres of land and the award of $33.7m in funding from the US Navy for shipyard development will see Austal USA commence construction of a Modular Manufacturing Facility (MMF) in 2008. The first phase is due for completion in mid-2009 and the resulting production line will enable the construction of three large aluminum vessels per year.
The funding is provided through “Infrastructure Improvements at Gulf Coast Shipyards” for eligible shipyards with current defense contracts. Phase 2 of the construction is expected to begin shortly thereafter and will double Austal’s shipbuilding capability to six large vessels per year.
In addition, Austal was recently awarded one of three Preliminary Design Contracts for the US Navy and Army’s Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV). Austal will submit a proposal for the Detailed Design and Construction Contract in mid 2008 leading to the selection of a builder for the JHSV class of vessels.
As the prime contractor, and the only shipyard with a track record of building large (over 100 metres in length) high speed aluminum vessels in the USA, Austal is confident of its ability to deliver a low risk JHSV platform to the US Navy and Army.
The JHSV requirements and concept of operations are similar to those of the Austal-built 101 metre WestPac Express, which has been serving the Third Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan for more than six consecutive years.