Austal USA Powers Ahead

By Greg Trauthwein, Editor
Thursday, September 12, 2013

Austal USA has arguably been one of the more progressive and aggressive U.S. shipyards in its investment in technology, facilities and people. Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle took the helm a little more than six months ago, and Maritime Reporter was able to catch up with him recently for insights on pressing matters of the day.
 

You have been in the president’s chair at Austal USA for more than half a year; how is your mission different today than from when you were named to the top spot last December? 

    Honestly my mission has not changed much since December. After smoothly transitioning to the new position, my focus has been to continue providing the team here with the resources necessary to continuously improve and meet our commitments on each of our existing programs. My other mission is on expanding the business. We are fortunate to have a sizable backlog today but my focus is to continue growing the business and increasing our orderbook.

Coming into the position, what were your primary initiatives for the Austal USA operation, and have they changed? 

    Our primary initiatives consistently remain focused around safety, training, productivity improvements and cost reduction. Having the expansion of our manufacturing facilities essentially complete and in full operation, and having worked through first in class challenges on our programs, we have been able to stabilize our manufacturing processes and really zone in on opportunities for additional improvements. 

The U.S. Navy is an important customer to Austal USA; can you give our readers a brief overview of the scope of work you conduct for the Navy? 


    We are currently under contract to build ships in two different newly-introduced U.S. Navy shipbuilding programs. The Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a sleek 127-m aluminum trimaran hullform designed to be the most advanced high-speed military craft in the world.  This vessel is a fast, flexible Naval Combatant designed to operate in littoral waters across the globe.
Our second ship of this class, for which General Dynamics BIW is prime, is nearing completion.  We also have a 10-ship contract for which Austal is prime, valued at $3.5 billion, of which three are under construction with the first scheduled to be launched by the end of the calendar year.
The Navy has also contracted Austal to build 10 Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV); a contract worth $1.6 billion. The JHSV class of ships are 103-m aluminum catamarans designed to provide rapid intra-theater deployment/transportation of personnel, equipment and supplies. The vessel has the speed, volume and flexibility to perform multiple missions including but not limited to military logistics, sustainment and humanitarian relief operations at speeds of up to 43 knots.  The first two ships have been delivered and are operating on the East Coast, while three more are under various stages of construction at this time.

How has Sequestration materially impacted your business to date? In the future?

    Fortunately we have not been impacted by sequestration much at all.  In a recent visit by the CNO, Admiral Greenert stated that sequestration would not affect projects already under contract and that has been the case.  Going forward, we are confident that our relative low cost but highly flexible and capable solutions to the Navy, along with our ability to continue to deliver quality ships while meeting expectations, will put us in a favorable position with future business.

Austal USA arguably has been one of the more progressive U.S. yards in terms of investment in its operations and shipbuilding technology. That said, how is Austal investing today to ensure its tomorrow?

    Overall, we’ve invested more than $300m in our facility here in Mobile, most of which was completed within the last couple of years. Our focus has been investing in People, Plant and Processes. Quite frankly, we’ve completely transformed how we build ships and manage our business, with very little, if anything, being done today the same way it was done back in 2008.  With the facility and process growth came employment growth, with significant focus placed on training and skills enhancement. With tremendous help from the State of Alabama, we’ve developed a top notch training program that has enabled us to grow in total employment from about 800 in 2009 to over 3,500 today. These investments have enabled us to successfully support two first-in-class Navy programs and we feel this has put us in a very competitive position going forward.
For example, June was a very busy month here: we launched JHSV 3; delivered JHSV 2; then laid the keel for LCS 8, showing the manufacturing lines are in full operation.

Business is fraught with challenges every day. What do you count as the top challenges to building and maintaining an efficient, profitable shipbuilding operation?

    As can be expected, our primary challenges have centered around the rapid facility and employment growth we’ve experienced over the past few years while supporting two first-in-class programs. With expansion and employment growth come challenges in maintaining safety and increasing skill base.  Fortunately, we’ve been able to see significant improvements in both these areas despite the growth.
Regarding safety, despite growing total employment from under 1,000 to over 3,500 in just a few short years, we’ve successfully focused on improving the working environment of our employees as evidenced by receiving the Shipbuilders’ Council of America (SCA) award for Excellence in Safety for the fourth consecutive year. This is a direct result of the hard work and intense focus of all of our personnel, as well as their ultimate commitment to each other’s safety.  Although our safety performance is nationally recognized, our focus remains on continuing to improve and provide our employees with the safest work environment possible.
To help increase our skill base, Austal has teamed up with Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) to develop a 60,000 sq. ft. onsite training facility and program to support our needs.  This program is designed to provide an intense training opportunities for all trades; both existing Austal employees who desire to increase their skills for career advancement, and pre-hire candidates to facilitate their ability to rapidly assimilate into the workforces.  Austal also recruits 50 to 100 people twice per year to participate in our Apprentice Training Program which has successfully graduated four, four-year classes into our workforce in the last six years.  

(As published in the August 2013 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News - www.marinelink.com)
 

  • Craig Perciavalle, President, Austal USA

    Craig Perciavalle, President, Austal USA

Maritime Reporter January 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

Matson Announces Quarterly Dividend

Matson, Inc. declared a first quarter dividend of $0.17 per common share, the company’s board of directors announced. The dividend will be paid on March 5, 2015

Hogan Named VP at Newport News Shipbuilding

Rob Hogan has been appointed vice president of manufacturing at the Newport News Shipbuilding division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the company announced.

Kongsberg Expands Louisiana Office, Training Facility

Kongsberg Maritime has purchased approximately 5.2 acres for new construction on an 82,980 sq ft office and training facility. Construction on the James Business

Technology

Kongsberg Expands Louisiana Office, Training Facility

Kongsberg Maritime has purchased approximately 5.2 acres for new construction on an 82,980 sq ft office and training facility. Construction on the James Business

Navigational Charts App Debuts at Ocean Business

An independent consultancy and software development company will launch a new web and PC based navigational charting app at Ocean Business 2015.   Norcom Technology

Reftrade Upgrades Fleet Refrigeration Systems

Reftrade UK  has made an investment  to upgrade its fleet with environmentally friendly technology. The world’s first refrigeration system to use CO2 as a natural refrigerant,

Shipbuilding

Hogan Named VP at Newport News Shipbuilding

Rob Hogan has been appointed vice president of manufacturing at the Newport News Shipbuilding division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the company announced.

Wärtsilä to Power LNG-fueled RoPax Ferry

A ferry being built for Sweden’s Rederi AB Gotland will be fueled by LNG, featuring a Wärtsilä integrated solution which includes a complete LNG powered propulsion- and fuel storage and supply system,

Safeguarding Maritime Power Connections

KIRK interlocking products provide safe electrical access during cold ironing, ensuring that ship power cables are properly coupled to shore power junction boxes before energizing.

Ship Repair & Conversion

Maintenance Woes Led to Digby Ferry Grounding

Maintenance deficiencies and inadequate emergency procedures led to November 2013 grounding of Princess of Acadia in Digby, Nova Scotia    Maintenance deficiencies

Safeguarding Maritime Power Connections

KIRK interlocking products provide safe electrical access during cold ironing, ensuring that ship power cables are properly coupled to shore power junction boxes before energizing.

The Art of Propeller Making

The world’s biggest propellers have their cradle in the North of Germany. MMG – Mecklenburger Metallguss GmbH – has manufactured for more than 65 years propellers for ships,

Environmental

Reftrade Upgrades Fleet Refrigeration Systems

Reftrade UK  has made an investment  to upgrade its fleet with environmentally friendly technology. The world’s first refrigeration system to use CO2 as a natural refrigerant,

Liberian Registry Launches Green Ship Initiative

“We have launched a new initiative to help shipowners improve their green credentials and meet other corporate social responsibilities," said Scott Bergeron, CEO

Shell Eyes Arctic Drilling this Summer

Oil major Shell wants to revive its Arctic oil drilling programme this year after a near two-year suspension, angering environmentalists who say the risk of an oil spill is too high.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Ship Electronics Sonar
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.5638 sec (2 req/sec)