Austal Ltds has signed its first United States military
charter deal which it hopes could prove a catalyst for major defense contracts. Austal shares climbed 20 cents to close at A$1.20 after the group announced it would charter a purpose built vessel for the deployment of U.S. Marines and equipment in the western Pacific. The 100-m high speed so-called Theatre Logistics Vessels (TLVs) can transport a battalion of more than 950 marines and up to 550 tons of equipment. "Clearly what it does is it gives us entry into one of the largest markets in the world eventually, we can only see blue sky," Austal managing director Bob McKinnon said.
He said Austal was interested in reports the U.S Army may need up to 14 vessels, although no tenders had been called or approaches made to the company so far. Western Australia-based Austal will lease its A$90 million TLV to the U.S Marine Corps for an initial two-month trial in operations between Japanese ports.
Austal did not disclose the value of the contract, but said it was expected to be extended.
The contract cements Austal's move away from the slowing ferry building business into defense and other specialist charter operations, with emphasis on its U.S. operations. "Certainly the military in general, and if you are going to talk military you have to talk U.S, has been a very deliberate part of that strategy," McKinnon said. - (Reuters)