"Exporting means bigger orders, more work, manufacturing to different requirements," Bellamy says. "Being part of a large project with the US Navy allows us to invest in the shipyards and people."
Austal started life making very fast, multi-hull ferries out of aluminium. It expanded from exporting the distinctive designs to Asian commercial customers and in 1999 signalled its intention to expand into military shipbuilding when it opened Austal USA. Having won the contract to build Armidale-class ships for the Royal Australian Navy in 2003, it moved into contract work for the US Navy, winning a 10-ship contract for the EPF (Expeditionary Fast Transport) catamaran vessel and then won a place in the 52-ship LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) project, based on the trimaran hull, in which the final 20 ships will be evolved into frigates.
Bellamy says the path to the lucrative US defence industry market took a decade and was paved with unique IP, attention to high quality work and a preparedness to upscale production for export contracts. Austal built a new shipyard at Mobile, Alabama and now employs 4000 people in what Bellamy calls a 21st century shipyard for a 21st century ship.