Shipbuilder to Begin Building 3 Ships for Navy

General Dynamics-NASSCO will begin building three ships this week and christen a fourth as the San Diego shipyard continues to rebound from a steep downturn in business.

Work is set to start Wednesday on a 784-foot Navy vessel that will serve as a floating staging base for troops, tanks, vehicles and equipment. The $498 million ship is part of a program that was originally called the Mobile Landing Platform. But the program has gone through two name changes as the Navy has added a flight deck to the vessel and expanded its capacity for repairs and storage.

The Navy now calls this type of vessel Expeditionary Base Mobile. This will be the fourth ship in the class built at NASSCO, the largest major shipbuilder on the West Coast.

On Friday, NASSCO will begin constructing two product tankers -- one which will go to SEACOR, and the other to American Petroleum Tankers. Such commercial work dried up during the Great Recession, which was the major reason that NASSCO was forced to cut its workforce to 2,500 from roughly 3,600 in early 2014. Employment has since risen to about 4,000 as NASSCO has captured a series of commercial contracts.

NASSCO does not release the price of commercial tankers.

Work on the two ships comes only two months after NASSCO launched Perla del Caribe, a container ship the company built for TOTE. The new vessel will operate between Jacksonville, Florida and Puerto Rico, delivering cargo. TOTE also was the owner of El Faro, a cargo ship that sank earlier this month in the Bahamas while trying to making it through Hurricane Joaquin. Authorities say that all 33 of the ship's crew members appear to have died at sea. El Faro also operated between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico.

The last event of the week will occur on Saturday will NASSCO christens Lone Star State, a product tanker for American Petroleum Tankers.

NASSCO is currently looking for additional commercial work, and it will compete for the right to build at least six oil tankers for the Navy.

"We are currently working through the biggest backlog of ships in NASSCO's history," said Kevin Graney, the company's general manager. "We're moving more U.S.-sourced steel than ever before. Not only that, we're building the ships of the future: these tankers incorporate new innovative, green ship technology, making them among the most fuel-efficient, cost-saving, and environmentally-friendly tankers -- anywhere in the world.

"On the government side of our work, on Wednesday we will begin construction on another Mobile Landing Platform Afloat Forward Staging Base, or recently reclassified as an ESB. What essentially started out as a three-ship program, is now a four-ship program, and possibly a fifth. The capability of these ships are second to none--and we get to build them right here in San Diego."

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