Crowley Maritime Corp.’s ocean class tugboat Ocean Sky and heavy lift barge 455-4, managed by the company’s Houston-based solutions group, a project management organization, provided support to shipbuilder Austal USA during the launch of the newly built U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), USS Montgomery, last week in Mobile, Ala.
To facilitate the launch, the Montgomery was first moved from Austal’s shoreside assembly zone to the deck of Crowley’s 455-4, a feat that required hoisting the 1,600 metric-ton warship almost three feet off the ground and shifting it 400 feet on board the ballasted barge via self-propelled modular trailers (SPMTs). The 455-4 was moored adjacent to Austal’s assembly bay after having been delivered to the Port of Mobile by Crowley’s tug Ocean Sky. Once the Montgomery was securely on board the barge, local harbor tugs shifted the vessels to a nearby floating dry dock, BAE Systems’ Drydock Alabama. The dry dock was made level with the 455-4, and the Montgomery was then driven on board by the SPMTs. As the final step, the Drydock Alabama was submerged and the Montgomery safely entered the water for the first time.
“We listened to our customer’s needs, worked diligently to create a feasible solution and were able to help them fulfill their project goals on time and on budget,” said Crowley Vice President John Ara. “This is the beginning of what we hope is a long, supportive relationship with Austal USA, BAE and the U.S. Navy.”
Austal will utilize Crowley’s 455-4, which has deck strength of 20.51 MT/m2, in a similar capacity during the planned Sept. launch of the U.S. Navy’s spearhead class Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), Trenton. The JHSV will be used for fast, intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment when it enters service later this year.
The Montgomery is the second of ten 127-meter independence-variant LCS class ships Austal has been contracted to build for the USN and is the first Navy new-build of this kind for which Crowley has provided support services. The warship’s fast, agile, focused-mission platform is designed for operation in near-shore environments yet is capable of open-ocean operation. The ship is currently moored in the Mobile River in front of Austal USA’s facility, where it will undergo final outfitting and activation before sea trials and delivery to the Navy.