Australian Manufacturer Plans to Expand in Alabama


In late February, Australia-based shipbuilding company Austal USA announced plans to hire hundreds of American workers at its plant this year in Mobile, Alabama. This recent development comes after the US Navy awarded the company a $16.3 million contract to conduct post-delivery work in Mobile.

Austal is currently contracted to construct multiple ships for the US Navy. The ‘Littoral Combat Ship’ (LCS) is a dynamic warship designed for multiple operations including anti-submarine warfare, surface missions, and mine countermeasures in regions close to shore. The company recently had its contract extended to build the 18th and 19th “Independence” class LCS.

For 20 years, Austal has been operating in the United States, spurred by multiple contracts with the US Navy, and supplemented by government grants. Austal USA is the fifth largest shipbuilder in the United States, currently employing over 4,000 people. The company’s relationship with the US Navy is strong, and has been a major factor behind their sustained investments in both employees and facilities.

On February 22nd, Austal began construction on the USS Canberra, an Independence-variant LCS. Its namesake is derived from the previous USS Canberra which was named after HMAS Canberra, an Australian ship that was sunk in the Battle of Savo Island in 1942. The name ‘Canberra’ of course originates from Australia’s capital city. It is the only US warship named after a foreign capital city, a unique honor symbolizing the close relationship between the two countries. The announcement of its naming was made during a joint press conference between President Donald Trump and Australia’s former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in February 2018. The President remarked that its naming would stand as a testament to the “enduring friendship” between the United States and Australia.

Australia and the United States have shared close relations for over a century, including in security and investment. Australia maintains the 10th highest level of foreign direct investment into the United States with over $45 billion as of 2013, and the two countries uphold a robust alliance. You can discover more about the bilateral relationship in the Australia Matters for America publication produced by the East-West Center.

Alex McKenzie is a participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Western Australia studying a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Political Science and International Relations.