Austal USA celebrated the christening of the expeditionary fast transport (EPF) Puerto Rico with a ceremony at its Mobile, Ala., shipbuilding facility on Saturday. The Puerto Rico (EPF 11) is the 11th of 12 EPFs that Austal has under contract with the Navy with a combined value of over $1.9 billion.

“Austal is excited to christen another amazing ship,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said in a statement announcing the christening. “Puerto Rico is one step closer to joining her sister ships in supporting important missions across the globe.”

Nine Spearhead-class EPFs have been delivered and are serving as an affordable solution to fulfilling the Military Sealift Command’s requirements worldwide. The future Burlington is scheduled for delivery to the Navy later this month and two more EPFs, including EPF 11, are under construction at Austal’s Mobile shipyard. Austal also received approval from the Navy to order long lead-time materials for EPF 13 in October.

The Spearhead-class EPF is designed to provide high-speed, high-payload transport capability to fleet and combatant commanders. The EPF’s large, open mission deck and large habitability spaces provide the opportunity to conduct a wide range of missions from engagement and humanitarian assistance or disaster relief missions.

With a draft of 13', the EPF has the ability to access austere and degraded ports with minimal external assistance. The EPF is designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots in sea state 3. The ships are capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank (M1A2).

The EPF includes a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that allow vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. The ramp is suitable for the types of austere piers and quay walls common in developing countries. The ship’s shallow draft further enhances littoral operations and port access. This makes the EPF an extremely flexible asset for support of a wide range of operations including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support or as the key enabler for rapid transport, according to the Navy.

In addition to being in full rate production for the EPF program, Austal is also the Navy’s prime contractor for the Independence-variant of the littoral combat ship (LCS) program. Austal has delivered nine LCSes, while an additional six are in various stages of construction.


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.