Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS) says it will upgrade its shipyard equipment and facilities this year as it prepares to assist with work on the Navy’s new guided-missile frigate FFG(X) program.
FBS is partnering with its sister shipyard Fincantieri Marinette Marine, who was awarded the $795 million contract for the Navy’s first-in-class frigate April 30, 2020. Building a quality ship in Wisconsin will afford the Navy the opportunity to exercise options on the original contract for nine additional ships and services valued at $5.5 billion. The detailed design work of the first vessel began in May and the start of fabrication is planned for 2021.
FBS will build large portions of the frigate hull then ship them by barge across Lake Michigan to Marinette, much like they do with Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) construction. Fincantieri ACE Marine in Green Bay, also constructs aluminum modules for LCSs then sends them north to Marinette, as part of a collaborative system-of-yards approach that leverages the talent and capabilities across the three Wisconsin facilities.
“This opportunity to continue and expand the work we are doing for the Navy with the frigate is exciting for many reasons,” says Todd Thayse, FBS’s vice president and general manager. “It gives us the ability to continue delivering naval vessels for the Navy and Coast Guard as we’ve done throughout our history. It also gives Door County direct and indirect economic benefits for a decade or longer as we upgrade our facilities, provide jobs, and continue partnerships with vendors and suppliers across the Midwest.”
Although the improvements will be within its current shipyard perimeter, FBS says it is working with the city of Sturgeon Bay and the state of Wisconsin to ensure all growth is understood and fully compliant ahead of construction later this year.
Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding will maintain its current shipyard footprint in Sturgeon Bay that stretches along N. Third Avenue from Georgia Street to Florida Street. The south end of the yard nearest Georgia Street, or buildings formerly owned and operated by Palmer Johnson Yachts, will become the hub for government work, like the LCS and FFG(X) programs. FBS will expand or update some buildings to accommodate larger fabrication efforts, a blast/prime/paint building and more room for support services. Permits to approve the height of some buildings and to start construction are being filed with the city this week.
“To be part of the shipbuilding process for the U.S. Navy and build the newest ships that will defend our Nation and protect the lives of the women and men sailing on them is an honor for Sturgeon Bay and Door County,” says Sturgeon Bay Mayor David Ward. “We have a rich history of being part of some of the greatest programs and projects in the shipping and defense industries. We are pleased to understand the economic boost it brings to our city and county and the jobs it secures for years to come.”
Meanwhile, FBS will continue its commercial construction, conversion and repair business. The yard recently finished work on the latest Washington Island Ferry and continues construction on a self-unloading barge, Great Lakes freighter, as well as an liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker barge.
“We are always looking for talented women and men in our skilled trades, from steel-fitters to structural welders to fabricators, as well as engineering and business support services to be part of our Wisconsin team,” Thayse says. “Overall, we will maintain our current workforce numbers and simply train and transition our employees to assist with the frigate program. We look forward to continuing our commercial new construction projects and maintaining our seasonal Winter Fleet repair work that benefits the vessels currently on U.S. and international waterways.”