Ship to be built in Marinette

An artist’s rendering of the Fincantieri FFG(X) design.

MARINETTE, Wisconsin — The U.S. Navy has awarded a $795 million contract to Fincantieri Marinette Marine Corp. for detail design and construction of its FFG(X) class of guided-missile frigates.

Additional contract options, if exercised, could bump the total value of the contract to $5.57 billion. Options provide for delivery of up to 10 ships, post-delivery support, engineering services, crew familiarization, training equipment and provisioned items orders, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

More than half the work on the vessels will be performed in Marinette, but some will take place in Boston; Crozet, Virginia; New Orleans; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Prussia, Pennsylvania; Minneapolis; Cincinnati; Atlanta; and Chicago.

Marinette and the town of Menominee, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, are linked by three bridges over the the Menominee River, which flows into Lake Michigan.

“Today’s announcement is great news for Michigan workers and great news for our economy here in the Great Lakes region,” Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in an April 30 release.

“This contract will create new jobs and help to ensure Michigan’s manufacturing workforce remains strong long into the future,” she said. “Both workers in the Upper Peninsula and suppliers throughout the state will benefit.”

The base contract includes the first ship. The vessel is 496 feet long, has accommodations for 200, and has a range of 6,000 nautical miles.

“The FFG(X) will have multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, and electronic warfare and information operations,” the Department of Defense stated. “FFG(X) represents the evolution of the Navy’s small surface combatant, with increased lethality, survivability and improved capability to support the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations in the current security environment.”

Hull work is expected to be complete by May 2035, if all options are exercised. The first vessel is expected to be operational by 2030. The contracting entity is the Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C.

The Navy originally received four bids for the contract.

Fincantieri Marine Group is the United States subsidiary of Italian enterprise Fincantieri, one of the world’s largest shipbuilders. It has 19,000 employees in 20 shipyards on four continents. Fincantieri bought the Marinette operation about a decade ago.

The Marinette shipyard has constructed three vessels for the Staten Island Ferry; more than a dozen ships for the U.S. Coast Guard, including the USCGC Mackinaw, commissioned in 2006; and three dozen vessels for the U.S. Navy, including tugboats, Avenger class mine countermeasures ships and Freedom class littoral combat ships.

Increased capacity

In a separate action, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration awarded a $752,933 shipyard matching grant to Mackinac Marine Services in St. Ignace.

The grant, developed in part to increase the U.S. capacity for shipbuilding and maintenance, will be matched by Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet® Ferry, according to a release.

The facility update will give the Mackinac Marine Services shipyard the capacity to lift a ship or boat up to 200-tons in or out of the water for maintenance, repairs, inspections. Work on the travel lift is expected to be finished by summer 2021.

“This important grant will not only help us grow the shipyard capacity but will also take steps to provide additional year round jobs in our area that would otherwise be in another state,” Jerry Fetty, CEO of Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet Ferry and Mackinac Marine Services, said in a release.

“Up to this point, ships and boats larger than 80-tons had to go elsewhere, sometimes outside of Michigan, to be lifted out of the water for maintenance, repair and inspection,” said Fetty.

The Maritime Administration awarded a total of $19.6 million in discretionary grants in fiscal year 2020 to 24 small shipyards through its Small Shipyard Grant Program.

“The FFG(X) will have multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, and electronic warfare and information operations.” Department of Defense