Austal founder says Mobile operation will produce half steel, half aluminum ships

Mobile County

John Rothwell says he expects no more LCS orders

(WKRG) — The founder and director of Austal says although the company’s days of making Littoral Combat Ships for the U.S. Navy are running out, he expects the firm’s shipyard in Mobile to stay busy as it converts at least half of its American operation to making steel ships.

John Rothwell was interviewed by Gregory Robinson in a podcast for Blenheim Partners. Rothwell says while he believes Austal USA could get more orders from the military for its aluminum Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), the same can’t be said for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

“There are probably no more (aluminum) warships,” Rothwell said.

Since 2006, the U.S. Navy has ordered a total of 19 Independence variant LCS from Austal. Six of the final seven LCS are currently under construction in Mobile. Since 2010, the military has ordered 15 Austal made Spearhead class EPF, previously knows at the Joint High Speed Vessel. Two of the final three EPF are under construction now in Mobile.

Despite the end of the LCS program, Rothwell sees a bright future for Austal’s operation in Mobile. The U.S. Navy recently awarded a $50-million grant to Austal to convert a portion of its shipmaking to steel. Until now, Austal has made only aluminum ships in the U.S. The company is matching the Navy grant, and Rothwell expects Austal’s Mobile operation to be evenly split between aluminum and steel capabilities.

“Half will be aluminum ships, the other will focus on steel,” Rothwell said.

Rothwell says the U.S. government encouraged Austal’s conversion knowing it would be needed to meet the Navy’s future need for steel ships.

Rothwell also says that he believes there will be increasing worldwide demand for aluminum high-speed ferries — the commercial version of the EPF. The Austal founder says the company will soon open a dry dock in the San Diego area to service LCS and other Navy ships.

Hear the full Rockwell interview here

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