Austal is a world leader in the design and construction of customized aluminum defense and commercial vessels with shipyards in Australia, the Philippines and Mobile, Alabama. Austal USA’s location on the Mobile River and its proximity to the Bankhead Tunnel demand marine engineering experience and Thompson Engineering has partnered with Austal on several projects. Since our initial work for Austal on the engineering design and construction of the company’s shipbuilding and launch facilities, Thompson Engineering has partnered with Austal on its Vessel Completion Yard, Northern Shipyard Expansion Project, Assembly Bay #5 and Cove Reclamation Project.
Vessel Completion Yard 1 & 2
Immediately after a Navy vessel built at Austal is launched, it is outfitted at a dock area called a Vessel Completion Yard. Because of its contract with the U.S. Navy, Austal needs more space to park and service its vessels quickly.
Austal hired Thompson to design a new docking area to handle the final outfitting and sea trials for its ships. Thompson’s design included plans for a two-story, pile-supported, 20,500-square-foot production building and guard building. The project also included design and construction of a 1,305-linear-foot relieving platform, new bulkhead and 50-foot-wide loading dock that runs along the west and south sides of an existing inlet. The Vessel Completion Yard Phase 1 design allowed for three ship utility stations with data and power connections; fire and water hydrants; potable water with special flood-proof backflow prevention; air; custom hydrant design to supply emergency fire pumps; sewer quick connections; lift stations within the port’s flood plan; and associated utility infrastructure including fire pumps. The construction of the production building and fire pumps will occur in future construction.
A second phase of the Vessel Completion Yard develops and connects the north side of the project area to the south side with a bulkhead and dock and calls for the design and construction of two separate buildings. At 800-linear-feet by 50-feet-wide, the concrete dock will be designed and built to accommodate tractor trailer traffic and large, portable cranes that will service the vessels. The project area allows for two additional ship utility stations, with initial work for a third station to be completed in the future. The utility stations are set-up with the same amenities of those in Phase 1.
Two, free-standing buildings will be completed in this work -- a 20-foot by 40-foot facilities sub-operations and breakroom/restroom building to accommodate Austal’s large and growing workforce and a fire pump building, complying with strict standards and an accompanying pump capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute. Security measures such as fencing and gates, lighting and cameras are included in this phase of the project - expected to be complete in Winter 2016.
Northern Shipyard Expansion
Before designing a 106,000 square foot manufacturing building, Thompson conducted various tests of the site area’s unique conditions. Those tests included vibration and stress analysis of the Bankhead Tunnel, which runs under the construction site, and consideration of the unique subsurface soils of the Mobile River. Thompson’s building design includes more than 200 piles positioned under the building, which allows the building to house two, 40 metric ton overhead cranes used for positioning ship components. The building, which serves as a totally enclosed shipyard, is where Austal manufactures lightweight, aluminum ships for the U.S. Navy.
Assembly Bay #5
Thompson was selected to provide design and construction services on Austal’s newest Assembly Bay facility, which was completed in July 2012. The ship manufacturing building is designed at more than 58,000 sq. ft. in plan dimension, with a clear interior height of 102-feet and clear interior width of 125-feet. Assembly Bay 5 includes 30,000 sq. ft. steel mezzanines (two levels – lower and upper); multiple engineering, administrative and conferencing rooms; EMA stations; and assembly logistics facilities. In addition to the massive amount of advanced technology aluminum hull fabrication and specialized welding and mechanical support equipment, twelve offices are on the ground floor level and five on the mezzanine upper level. The building was designed for three 40 metric ton (MT) capacity, top running double girder cranes, each having multiple 20MT hoists. The exterior of the building includes full width rolling doors on the east and west sides that are 106’ wide by 102’ in clear height each. The project was designed to meet the latest International Building Code (IBC) requirements.
Before beginning construction on Austal’s Assembly Bay #5, Thompson Engineering was challenged to create stable and workable land areas next to and beneath the facility with an initiative known as the Austal Cove Reclamation project. This previously undeveloped site was an open water cove partially filled with extremely soft river sediments. Thompson designed and built a new bulkhead and filled the area to an elevation of above 10 feet-MSL (Mean Sea Level). This was a sensitive build; the Bankhead Tunnel, completed in 1940, runs through and under the middle of the entire shipyard facility at this site. Thompson’s marine design expertise was required in many facets: