When complete, both vessels will be used to support dredging operations in the United States.
Employees and executives from both companies recently gathered at the foot of the 98 ton keel block as Steve Becker, vice president of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, drove the ceremonial wedge and welded his initials in the keel of the first vessel, Hull 107.
“We’re excited about this milestone in the first of what will hopefully be a long run of new build opportunities with BAE Systems,” said Becker. “We are encouraged by the progress and quality of both barges to date.”
The keel block measures 38 feet long, almost 31 feet wide and stands more than 23 feet to the main deck. Completion of a keel laying is determined by the commitment of the first module to its place on the launchway, where it will serve as the nucleus around which the entire vessel will be built.
“It’s an honor that Great Lakes Dredge & Dock entrusted our team with this important project,” said Victor Rhoades, director and general manager of BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards in Mobile. “We take that responsibility along with our partnership very seriously.”
The design for the BAE Systems-built vessels was provided by Bay Engineering and is based on similar dump scows in the United States and abroad. The new vessels will also be U.S. flagged.
Both 7,500 cubic yard split bottom vessels will weigh about 1,600 tons and measure 295 feet long and 62 feet wide, with a draft of 17 feet. In October, BAE Systems began construction of the second vessel, Hull 108.
The contract demonstrates BAE Systems’ continued expansion in the commercial shipbuilding market. In addition to the vessels currently under construction in Mobile, BAE Systems announced in August that it was awarded a contract with GulfMark Americas to build two platform supply vessels, with an option for two additional vessels in the future. Construction on the first 288 foot platform supply vessel is expected to start in January 2013.
BAE Systems in Mobile currently has approximately 950 employees and expects to reach 2,000 workers by the end of 2013.