Aker wins contracts to build two more ships

Construction at the Aker yard. It is building two 115,000-ton oil tankers for an ExxonMobil affiliate.
Construction at the Aker yard. It is building two 115,000-ton oil tankers for an ExxonMobil affiliate. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 12, 2013

Aker Philadelphia Shipyard has won contracts to build two 850-foot-long container ships for Matson Navigation Co. of Honolulu that will carry cargo between the West Coast and Hawaii.

With other ship orders in the pipeline, the 1,100 employees at the South Philadelphia yard will have enough work to keep busy for several years.

"The winning of this order provides the shipyard significant backlog and valuable visibility out to 2018," Aker shipyard president and CEO Kristian Rokke said in announcing the $418 million contract last week.

Aker, the nation's second-largest commercial shipyard after General Dynamics Nassco, of San Diego, constructs oceangoing vessels in accordance with the U.S. Jones Act, which requires U.S.-made and U.S.-operated vessels to transport goods between U.S. ports.

The Matson ships will be completed in the third and fourth quarters of 2018 and will be the largest Jones Act container ships ever built, capable of moving 3,600 20-foot containers at speeds greater than 23 knots.

Matson and Aker have worked together before. The shipyard built four container ships for Matson between 2003 and 2006.

"We did put out bids to other shipyards. Aker came in with a great bid," said Matson spokesman Jeff Hull. "But we also are really pleased with the ships that we have in service today."

The first ship will be named for the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, "a long-standing supporter of the U.S. maritime industry and its role in supporting Hawaii's economy," Matson said.

The ships will be capable of moving 45-foot containers with a mix of cargo, ranging from construction materials to refrigerated cargo such as fruits and vegetables.

Matson, founded in 1882, is a leading U.S. carrier in the Pacific, transporting goods to Hawaii, Guam, Micronesia, and some South Pacific islands. It also operates a service between China and Southern California.

The new ships will be built to meet Hawaii's "future freight demands with increased cargo capacity," said Matt Cox, Matson president and CEO. The investment "underscores Matson's long-term commitment to providing Hawaii with a strong, reliable lifeline to and from the U.S. mainland."

Aker is currently constructing two 115,000-ton crude-oil tankers for the ExxonMobil Corp. affiliate SeaRiver Maritime Inc. The ships will be delivered next year.

Also, Aker announced in August an agreement to build four, and potentially as many as eight, product tankers for Crowley Maritime Corp.

In 2011, Aker received $42 million from Pennsylvania taxpayers to construct two tankers, for which Aker had ordered parts but had no buyers. Without state money - and private construction financing that Aker secured - the yard might have shut operations. Aker later sold the two ships it built "on spec" to Crowley.



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