ALABAMA SHIPYARD - INSIDE MARINE

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ALABAMA SHIPYARD

REVITALISING A HISTORIC LEGACY POWERED BY INSIDE MARINE


ALABAMA SHIPYARD

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PROFILE

Storied US dockyard Alabama Shipyard has a proud history of shipbuilding and maintenance dating back over 100 years. Today, Alabama Shipyard continues to fulfil a critical – even strategic – role in the country’s naval fabrication and maintenance capabilities. The company’s management team updated Inside Marine about Alabama Shipyard’s plans, both current and imminent, to keep this veteran shipyard relevant for the coming decades. Report by Richard Hagan.

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ust 18 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, in Mobile, Alabama, lies the aptly named Alabama Shipyard. Located on Pinto Island on a 45-foot deep channel, the yard has a proud history that dates back to 1916. During the Second World War, Alabama Shipyard made a formidable name for itself with its production of the famous Liberty Ships, at one stage launching them at an almost unbelievable rate of one new ship every week. By the end of the war, Alabama Shipyard had been solely responsible for the production of 600 ships. “The company has depths of history associated with it,” emphasised CEO Greg Wagner. “It has a history of helping not only the country but also the world. The Liberty Ships that were produced here, had a huge role in helping the allies win the war in the Atlantic.” Of course, that was many, many decades ago; and in order to ensure the yard continues to thrive into the next several decades, Alabama Shipyard has assembled a dynamic management team that is laser-focused on updating and continuing the yard’s legacy in the coming decades and beyond.

Staying shipshape with renovations In 2021, Alabama Shipyard completed the first phase of a multimillion dollar infrastructure renovation and upgrade project. COO Lee Stokes described the work done on its largest pier: “The

project involved $8 million-worth of work revitalising and rebuilding the pier. “In early 2022 we began CapEx work on the second of our large piers that hosts our drydock. We’re investing a lot of money back into the company here for the future and it’s all going very well,” he said. Mr Wagner echoed Mr Stokes’ comments: “We’re putting a lot of resources into the facility. It’s older and has been here for a long time. So we’re upgrading electrical cabling and installing compressors for each pier. Overall, all of the raw infrastructure is here, but we’re modernising the yard to have 21st century capabilities.” “We’re also continuing to steady-up our plans to see what the best drydock solution for our vessels is,” added Mr Stokes. “It’ll remain an open item until we get that settled. We understand that we need more drydock capacity, but we’re being careful about establishing what size dock we need and where we’ll put it. We really want to make sure that we make the right decision.”

Robust docking facilities In the meantime, the company continues to rely on its gargantuan drydock, also named Alabama. Built in Japan and delivered to the US in the 1980s before being sold to Alabama Shipyard later that same decade, the drydock is one of the largest floating drydocks in the US. With an overall length of 240m and a width of around 50m,

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ALABAMA SHIPYARD

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“The project also ties us back to the Second World War, with this facility helping and supporting everything that was happening in the world. So it’s a huge point of pride for us having it here” is very important to us”

its 46,400 tonne capacity is able to comfortably accommodate up to Capesize vessels. The Alabama’s heavy lifting is handled by its two 35 tonne wingwall cranes while the company’s highly skilled workforce of over 250 take care of all required work in the drydock. Outside of the drydock facility, Alabama Shipyard has an 800 tonne US-flagged crane barge that is being integrated into its operations. And finally, the company is actively pursuing ship recycling projects. This is an area that is seeing increasing growth as ship owners, under increasing public and regulatory pressure, eschew foreign shipbreakers in favour of local operations having all of the required safety and environmental measures.

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Nuclear powered growth In 2019, the US Navy initiated an environmental assessment to evaluate three new locations to include in its existing waste disposal sites; Alabama Shipyard is one of the three. Approval will allow the company to carry out dismantling of ex-nuclearpowered vessels for the US Navy. “The yard is being studied by the relevant organisations and the decision is expected to be announced towards the end of 2022,” revealed Mr Wagner. Meanwhile, Alabama Shipyard is participating in a very large, high-profile project to recycle a massive but unusual barge. The US Navy’s Surface Ship Support Barge, or SSSB, is a 268foot long barge that the US Navy operated from 1964 to 2016. Its


role was to refuel nuclear vessels spent nuclear fuel pool. The project is valued at $129 million and has been underway at Alabama Shipyard since June 2021. “Having the barge here is a big point for us,” said Mr Wagner. “We’re proud that we’re undertaking the project safely and efficiently.”

“Comfort is an important piece of equipment for the world as it supports humanitarian efforts globally,” he continued. “The project also ties us back to the Second World War with this facility helping and supporting everything that was happening in the world. So it’s a huge point of pride for us, and having it here is very important to us.”

A comforting arrival

Building the dream team

In March 2022, Mobile celebrated the arrival of the US Navy’s iconic, world-renowned hospital ship USNS Comfort. Alabama Shipyard proudly won the historic $25 million drydocking and overhauling contract – the first of its kind won by the yard in 30 years. The contract is due for completion at the end of July 2022. “It’s a big project with a big scope,” said Mr Wagner. “We’re proud to have it here, working on it and getting it ready for its next mission.

Alabama Shipyard is particularly proud of the management team it has assembled to take the company forward into its bright new future. Mr Wagner, of course, heads up the team and noted that he is proud to have returned to the yard after having left for other opportunities just after its purchase from former owner BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards. “I was here in 2018 when we first purchased the yard, so rejoining the team as CEO in early 2022 has been a big milestone

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ALABAMA SHIPYARD

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in my career and I’m beyond excited to be back,” he admitted. “We then built up the team systematically, but a big highlight was the arrival of Lee and his team.” “Greg recruited me to come over,” added Mr Stokes. “But he wouldn’t answer my call. I had to hunt him down!” interjected Mr Wagner. “I thought it was a prank call!,” said Mr Stokes, laughing. “But it all worked out great. Greg rounds out the executive team perfectly. His energy radiates daily.

Supporting the staff Of course, executive management is only one part of the picture. Equally important is the company’s workforce carrying out the increasingly demanding and complex projects arriving at Alabama Shipyard.

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“We started with eight staff in 2018 and we’re now at 250,” detailed Business Development Manager Nikole Lee. “That number excludes subcontractors as well as OEMs and technical teams. Depending on the workload, we can surge to upwards of 700 employees quickly.” To keep its growing staff compl ement happy, Alabama Shipyard is adamant about maintaining a healthy and happy working environment. “We work hard at being a company that values our staff,” said Ms Lee. “We ensure that they’re safe at work and getting home to their fam ilies every day. Folks want to feel valued and appreciated, that they’re part of a family. We really try to drive that kind of environment.” Mr Stokes agreed. “Here, you feel welcome. We try to invest in our people and even build a reputation within the community


that this is a great place to work; that you can have a long career here.” In closing, Mr Wagner discussed his outlook for the future: “We’re very bullish for the next 12 months,” he stated emphatically. “Outside of current geopolitical tensions, we’ve got a globally strong economy. We’re situated on one of the deepest ports

in the world and there are no air height restrictions. Globally, that’s huge. “In 2020/2021, we were very successful at keeping the yard full and we expect to maintain full utilisation (or as close to that as possible), through 2022 and into the future. So, we’re very optimistic over the next 12 to 18 months.” n

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alabamashipyard.com (251) 230-6265 info@alabamashipyard.com 660 Dunlap Drive Mobile, AL 36602, United States


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