Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., was recently awarded an $868 million contract for the design and construction of three expeditionary medical ships (EMS) from the Navy. 

The 361'x103' EMS catamarans will be built at Austal USA’s aluminum manufacturing line following completion of the last expeditionary fast transport, the EPF 16.

The EMS, an EPF variant, is designed to be a cost-effective, dedicated medical ship optimized to provide patient holding, stabilization, evacuation, and transport in support of Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), Austal officials said. The ship’s will feature 223 berths for crew, 34 acute care beds, six acute care isolation beds, 14 ICU beds, six ICU isolation beds, and three operating rooms.

The aluminum ships will have a range of 5,000 nm at 18 knots (full load) and a cruising speed of 15 knots. No engine details were released although the EPFs are powered by a pair of 12,200-hp MTU 20V8000 diesel engines and two 29,500-hp GE LM2500 gas turbines.

The EMS design features a shallow draft — 15' — which enables greater reach and allows for direct access to austere ports. The flight deck will accommodate military aircraft, including the V-22 and H-53K.

Additional features include a dedicated platform providing Role 2E level of care; single deck arrangement optimized for trauma patient flow; high-speed transit to quickly reposition and support crisis response, combat, and rapid patient transport operations; shallow draft enabling access to austere and degraded ports and offload sites; large flight deck to facilitate load/unload of V-22 and CH-53 aircraft; hangar and service facilities for up to H-60 sized aircraft (organic combat search and rescue capability); and boat operations with two 11M RIBs; patient transfer from other surface vessels or direct recovery from water

Austal USA has delivered 13 EPFs, a predecessor to the EMS design, to the Navy. The company is preparing to deliver the first EPF Flight II, the future USNS Cody (EPF 14), which features Role 2E medical capability, and has two more Flight II vessels under construction.

“This award is further evidence of the Navy’s confidence in Austal USA to produce highly capable, shallow-draft aluminum multihull vessels,” acting Austal USA President Michelle Kruger said in a statement announcing the contract. “We are proud to provide this innovative critical care capability to the men and women who defend our county.”

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.

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