Posted on December 20, 2023
The United States is home to the largest and finest shipyards in the world, enabling the construction of the sturdiest and most seaworthy vessels. Presently, the nation boasts 154 private shipyards, categorised as active builders, which are scattered across 29 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Additionally, there are over 300 shipyards which engage in ship repairs and are capable of constructing ships but are not actively engaged in shipbuilding activity.
Most of the shipyards are situated in coastal states. However, some can also be found on prominent inland waterways like the Great Lakes, Ohio, and Mississippi.
According to a 2021 report by MARAD titled ‘The Economic Importance of the U.S. Private Shipbuilding and Repairing Industry’, the U.S private shipbuilding and repair industry directly provided 107,180 jobs, $9.9 billion in labour income and $12.2 billion in GDP to the national economy in 2019.
1. Austal USA
Austal USA is a shipbuilder based in Blakely Island in Mobile, Alabama. It was formed in 1999 and has service centres in Singapore and San Diego and a technology centre in Charlottesville, Va. It constructs steel and aluminium ships and has a moving module production line.
It specialises in building high-speed vessels for transporting passengers, defence ships like the littoral combat ships used by navies around the world and fast ferries.
Austal USA has been contracted for programs which include the construction of a heritage-class cutter for the US Coast Guard, building ocean surveillance ships for the U.S Navy and also constructing a landing craft utility vessel, a towing, salvage and rescue ship, a medical ship and also independence-variant littoral combat ship programs.
It also supports the U.S. Navy’s unmanned vessel programs and is a key global support provider to the U.S. Navy, the Military Sealift Command and other clients.
Austal USA’s San Diego Service Center has a facility on the waterfront to accommodate small combatants and similar-sized vessels.
Austal USA, which began operations with less than 100 employees on a 14-acre facility, is now a recipient of 23 safety excellence awards, making it one of the safest shipyards in America and the world.
2. General Dynamics NASSCO
General Dynamics NASSCO has designed and constructed numerous ships in the industrial belt of San Diego since the 1960s.
It is also the only shipyard on the West Coast that provides a full range of services to its customers. Presently, it has facilities on the east and the west coasts of the US in 4 important ports: Bremerton, Mayport, Norfolk and San Diego.
It specialises in constructing support vessels for the US Navy, tankers and dry cargo ships for the commercial sector. It is also the principal provider of repair services for the U.S. Naval force.
General Dynamics facilities are capable of constructing commercial cargo ships, tankers and auxiliary ships for the Navy measuring 1000 ft lengthwise. It can service and repair any kind of ship sailing on the United States West Coast.
The main shipyard lies on the San Diego Bay with a 35 ft channel depth. It is spread over 86 acres of land and 47 acres of water and has 8 berths, which are 600 to 1000 ft long, 9 portal cranes, a floating drydock, 10 assembly areas, 5 production workshops, 2 inclined building ways, etc.
3. Newport News Shipbuilding
One of the biggest shipbuilders in the world, Newport News Shipbuilding has a long history of shipbuilding going back to 1886. It builds nuclear-powered ships for military and commercial use and specialises in constructing aircraft carriers, surface combatant ships and submarines.
It is a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries and came into existence as the Chesapeake Dry Dock and Construction Co. Till now, this shipyard has constructed over 800 vessels, including those for the navy and the commercial market.
Situated in Newport News, it is spread over 500 acres or 2.2 km2 of land. It is a major employer in the lower Virginia Peninsula, parts of Hampton Roads south of James River and the Middle Peninsula region, and some of North Carolina’s northeastern counties.
The shipyard built the USS John F. Kennedy, the 2nd Gerald R. Ford Aircraft Carrier, which was launched and christened in 2019. It is also building the USS Enterprise, which will be launched in 2025.
This shipyard also undertakes refuelling and complex overhaul work on the aircraft carriers of the Nimitz-class.
4. Philly Shipyard, Inc.
Earlier known as the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, the Philly Shipyard is one of the leading U.S. shipbuilders, currently pursuing major commercial and government shipbuilding and repair projects. The shipyard is located in Philadelphia and is a preferred provider of oceangoing merchant ships.
It was established in 1997 through a public-private partnership between the U.S. government Agencies and the Kvaerner Shipbuilding Division. In 2000, it began construction of 2 container vessels. Soon, the shipyard grew, and between 2007 and 2011, it delivered 12 product tankers to AMSC and OSG.
In 2019, it delivered the CV3600 container vessel to Matson and was given the repair and maintenance contracts for FSS Antares and FSS Pollux, MARAD sister ships.
It also won the contract for design studies for the US Navy’s Common Hull Auxiliary Multi-Mission Platform program.
In 2020, it achieved another milestone when it bagged the contract to build 5 MSMVs for MARAD.
5. Bath Iron Works
Situated in the northeastern U.S., in Bath, Maine, this shipyard has successfully delivered more than 425 vessels since 1884. This includes far more surface combatants than any other shipyard in the U.S.
Right from the advent of the Second World War, Bath Iron Works constructed the lead ship for 12 non-nuclear surface combatants of the U.S. Navy.
Today, it is a shipyard offering a complete range of services, from the designing of vessels to their construction, maintenance and repairs. It supports destroyers and cruisers and has provided the Navy with highly advanced and great-quality surface combatants for over 100 years.
The shipyard aims to drastically reduce the hours for constructing warships by manufacturing outfitted modular ship units fitted on their Land Level Transfer Facility.
Bath Iron Works is also one of the biggest private-sector employers in Maine and is known as the leading designer of the Arleigh Burke or DDG 51 class of AEGIS destroyers.
6. Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM)
FMM is a part of the Fincantieri Marine Group, the U.S division of the Italian Enterprise Fincantieri. It has a long history of over 2 centuries and a record of building over 7000 vessels. Fincantieri has 18 shipyards on 4 continents, employing around 20,000 professionals.
The foundation of Fincantieri Marinette Marine was laid in 1942. It lay along the River Menominee in Marinette, Wisconsin and was built to meet the increasing market demand for naval ships in the U.S.
Since then, it has grown into one of the world’s biggest and most prominent ship construction facilities, having designed and constructed over 1500 ships over the years, ranging from vessels engaged in offshore exploration and production to maritime security, military sealift and polar operations.
FMM completed an expansion program which transformed its 550,000 sq ft. operations into a modern space with distinct areas for manufacturing, storage, and receiving areas and the capability for constructing the 7 Littoral Combat Ships using FMM’s automated manufacturing equipment and heavy lift capabilities.
FMM’s portfolio includes the US Navy’s freedom class littoral combat ships, constellation class frigates, mine countermeasure vessels, ocean tugs, the US Coast Guard’s response ships, icebreakers and buoy tenders.
7. Vigor Industrial Portland
Vigor has facilities at 12 locations and employs over 2500 professionals. It is a renowned name for ship construction, repair and fabrication in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Vigor builds combatant crafts, aluminium workboats, barges, tuges, fishing vessels, and ferries. Vigor’s repair teams can handle offshore supply ships, aircraft carriers, cruise ships, floating drill rigs, etc.
Vigor’s 60-acre Shipyard is one of the biggest and most capable on the West Coast.
There are three drydocks and 15 piers with a total length of over 10,000 ft or 3000 m. The facility has 13 cranes, an 800-foot oversized buildway, and 150,000 square feet of fabrication bays.
8. Ingalls Shipbuilding
Situated in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Ingalls Shipbuilding is the biggest manufacturing employer in the region.
Ingalls was established in 1938 and is now a part of the HII. It employs around 12,500 people and is a major producer of U.S. Navy vessels.
For the past 85 years, it has designed, constructed and repaired amphibious vessels, cutters and destroyers of the U.S Navy and the U.S Coast Guard.
It is also the largest supplier of Surface combatants for the U.S. Navy and is building 4 classes of ships.
Ingall’s main focus has been naval vessels, and it has undertaken such projects for Venezuela, Israel and Egypt.
Ingalls also tried entering the diesel-electric locomotive market in the 1940s and produced hopper railroad cars in the 1980s, rolling out around 4000 units.
From the 1930s to the 1980s, Ingalls constructed type B ship barges in Decatur, Alabama.
9. BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards
BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, Alabama, is part of the U.K.-based BAE Systems PLC, which builds warships, patrol boats, cruisers, destroyers, etc., used by European navies.
Possessing three full-service shipyards on the United States’ eastern and western coasts, BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards serve operators of commercial vessels and superyachts and also the U.S. Navy.
It is based in Jacksonville, Florida and has shipyards at Jacksonville, Mayport, Florida and earlier, Mobile, Alabama.
The facility in Mobile employed around 900 professionals, while the facility in Mobile employed around 800 people.
The Jacksonville shipyard caters to luxury yachts and commercial vessels, conversion, assembly of ships, and industrial and marine fabrication.
The Mayport facility repairs and maintains the U.S. Naval vessels. The facility at Mobile on the Gulf Coast offered dry docking and heavy-lift capacity for the biggest vessels; however, it was closed in 2018.
10. Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Company (FBS)
Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding has a 63-acre facility custom-designed to handle major construction work, conversions, and the repair and maintenance of commercial, naval, and Coast Guard vessels.
FBS is a part of Fincantieri Marine Group and has a history of constructing ships in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, since 1918.
The company operated under different names and tried its luck in different segments of the industry. In the 1970s and ’80s, it built Lake freighters. It constructed a modern freighter, MV Mark W. Barker, which was launched last year.
FBS specialises in designing and constructing large ships, including tug barges, cruise ships, dredges, ferries, platform supply vessels and offshore support vessels.
It is constructing a 5400 m3 bunker barge for bunkering LNG-fueled cruise vessels built in Europe that will sail from Florida to the Caribbean.