VT Halter Marine, Pascagoula, Miss., has signed a $78 million contract to build barges for Navy crews to live aboard when their ships are laid up for repair, being overhauled or involved in Inter-Deployment Cycles (IDTC). The first two are scheduled for delivery by July 2020, according to published reports.

The agreement includes an option to buy four more barges and other services from Halter, which would put the overall worth of the contract in the $240 million range.

Basic specifications have not been released as yet, but the new barges, known to the Navy as auxiliary personnel lighter — small (APL(S), are designed to accommodate 600 personnel in living quarters and up to 1,100 for meals. The new barges are designed to improve the quality of life for Navy personnel.

The initial contract includes the design and construction of the lead and second craft in the APL(S) 67 class. Most of these types of barges the Navy owns are decades old and not a good fit for today’s naval personnel.