VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., laid the keel to signify the beginning of construction for the first of two 269'x75.28' auxiliary personnel lighter — small (APL(S)) berthing barges for the U.S. Navy.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded VT Halter a $77.9 million contract to design and build two units of the new class of berthing barges in September 2018, with options for another four. The first of these four options was exercised in February 2019, bringing the total value of the contract awarded to VT Halter to $118 million.
The vessels, which will have 7.22' drafts, will be capable of seating 228 enlisted personnel and 56 officers for each meal. Each vessel is equipped with offices, classrooms, washrooms, laundry facilities, medical treatment areas, a barber shop and a fitness center. The vessels are being fitted with mixed gender berthing spaces for 74 officers and 537 enlisted personnel, for a total of 611 people.
Traditionally, the keel laying marks the ceremonial beginning of construction as it forms the ship’s backbone and is the first part of the vessel to be constructed. The company expects the first two vessels to be delivered in the third quarter of 2020, and the third unit to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“We are proud to serve our U.S. service men and women, so laying the keel on Flag Day for the APLs is most meaningful on this patriotic day,” VT Halter Marine president and CEO Ronald Baczkowski said in a statement. “This is an important milestone to ensure our seamen have the best berthing accommodations.”
When completed, the Navy will use the berthing barges to house crewmembers when ships are in port for maintenance and Inter-Deployment Training Cycles. They are mobile and can be towed to new bases or shipyards to support changing fleet requirements and also offer potential use for humanitarian missions and other temporary assignments.