Austal first noted potential plans to expand its existing commercial shipbuilding facilities in 2017, following a significant increase to its order book at that time. This growth has continued with Austal’s current commercial vessel order book now extending out until early 2021, including five large vessels (over 80 metres in length) that are collectively worth more than $400 million.
Austal chief executive David Singleton said the investment was primarily focused on the large ferry market.
"The capital investment in the commercial operation will increase Austal’s ability to secure and deliver large, high-speed aluminium vessel contracts in highly cost effective shipyards," Singleton said.
"The demand outlook in the market for large, high-speed aluminium vessels underpins Austal’s decision to focus its investment in this sector."
Austal will spend $6 million will be spent at its Henderson shipyard to enhance its launch facilities to support large vessel construction and infrastructure upgrades to improve efficiency across the operations.
This investment is in addition to last year’s expansion of capacity with the establishment of a Pacific Patrol Boat shipyard in a new facility in Naval Base. This facility is primarily focused on steel ship construction and will deliver the first of 21 vessels later this year. Production of the last vessel is due for completion in FY2024, under construction and sustainment contracts worth approximately $335 million.
Austal’s Henderson operation is also currently constructing a $100 million, 109-metre high-speed catamaran ferry for Mols Lines of Denmark, and will shortly commence construction of the first of two, 117-metre trimarans for Fred Olsen Lines, worth a combined $190 million, destined for the Canary Islands.
Over in the Philippines, Austal will invest US$18 million to more than double the capacity of its existing Philippines shipyard. The upgrades to the facilities will include a new assembly hall that will be 120 metres long, 40 metres wide, and 42 metres high.
Austal said this upgrade will enable the shipyard to assemble the largest commercial vessels, based on Austal’s existing order book and tender pipeline. The facility upgrades will also include additional assembly bays, material storage and accommodation facilities to allow the workload at the site to increase to more than twice its historic peak. These facilities are due for successive completion through 2018, with all construction complete by early 2019.
Austal Philippines currently has in production a 109-metre high speed catamaran for Fjordline of Norway, worth $108 million; two 50-metre high speed vessels for Braveline (a subsidiary of Wisdom Marine), worth $44 million; one 49-metre vessel for SNC Aremiti, worth $30 million; and one 30-metre vessel for VS Grand Tours, worth $5 million.
Austal has also recently commenced a small commercial shipyard operation in Vietnam. The new location is located in the highly industrialised shipbuilding and marine support precinct to the south of Ho Chi Minh City.
The location was selected to provide additional high-quality aluminium construction support to Austal’s commercial operations both for modules for larger ships, supporting Austal Philippines, and to build smaller high-speed aluminium vessels.