Austal USA opens Navy-oriented ship repair yard in San Diego
The San Diego Union-Tribune February 21, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — At a cost of $100 million, Austal USA has opened a waterfront ship yard in National City that will compete for contracts to repair and modernize Navy ships in San Diego, home of the largest naval fleet on the West Coast.
The new yard is on San Diego Bay, immediately south of Naval Base San Diego, and will feature a 531-foot floating dry dock starting later this year. The company’s initial work will be conducted on the Canberra, an Independence-class littoral combat ship, or LCS, that will soon be commissioned.
The yard represents a major expansion for Austal, a Mobile, Ala.-based shipbuilder that manufactures a variety of vessels, including Navy LCS and Coast Guard cutters. The National City facility has 120 employees, a figure that’s expected to quickly rise to 400.
“Our team responded to the need to increase capacity here in San Diego and we will similarly respond to the need to deliver ships safely from their availabilities on-time, on-budget, and warfighting ready,” Austal President Rusty Murdaugh said in a statement.
The company’s local competition includes General Dynamics-NASSCO, which employees 3,400 people, BAE Systems, which employs 1,100, and Continental Maritime, which has had about 200 workers in recent years.
Austal’s new yard debuts roughly two months after the Navy set a goal of having at least 75 mission-capable ships ready to go at any one time. Most of those vessels are Burke-class destroyers, cruisers, LCS and every type of amphibious ship. Dozens of those ships are homeported in San Diego.
The goal represents “a really good, thorough assessment across the fleet (of) operational requirements,” Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, the commander of Naval Surface Forces, told journalists in January.
Reaching that goal could be difficult. A Government Accountability Office study released in January says that, “ Navy ship usage has decreased as challenges and costs have increased.” Reviewers attributed the problems to everything from a shortage of ship parts to maintenance delays. The Navy has confirmed that the parts shortage is so bad it has had to cannibalize some of its own vessels.
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