Navy extends charter of Westpac Express

The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command has awarded an $8.23 million fixed-price contract to Austal Hull 130 Chartering, L.L.C., Mobile, Ala., to charter the 101-meter Westpac Express to support the Marine Corps Third Marine Expeditionary Force.  This contract includes three six-month option periods, which, if exercised, would bring the potential value of this contract to $30.3 million.

Commencing as a direct continuation of the ship’s current charter of the Westpac Express, the new contract with the United States Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) will start in February 2012 and last between six and 24 months.

The Westpac Express will continue to transport troops and equipment from the Marine Corps’ Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF). The ship is based in Okinawa, Japan, home of the III MEF, and operates throughout the Western Pacific.

Austal CEO Andrew Bellamy said the charter reflected the ability of Austal to provide highly successful long-term, integrated ship and support solutions to military requirements.

westpacexpress2The Westpac Express was originally chartered to support the Marine Expeditionary Force in July 2001.

“The ship has been meeting the Marine Corps’ logistics requirements for over a decade, and doing so with virtually 100 percent reliability, reflecting the quality of both the ship the in service support we have supplied over the same period,” he said.

“The ship’s success was a significant factor in us becoming prime contractor for the U.S. Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessel and Littoral Combat Ship programs, and indeed demonstrates the value these new classes of ship will bring to the U.S. Navy.

Austal recently launched the first of seven JHSVs it has been contracted to build, and is preparing to the launch the second of four contracted LCSs. Contract options for a further three JHSVs and eight LCS are still to be exercised by the U.S. Navy.

Originally described as a Theatre Support Vessel (TSV), WestPac Express was first chartered to the III MEF in July 2001 for a “proof of concept” period. This was the first time the U.S. military had contracted a commercial vessel of this type for military support. This charter was so successful that, after competitive tenders, the MSC signed a three-year charter in January 2002 which was subsequently extended to February 2007. In 2005, MSC again sought competitive tenders for a new charter of up to 55 months and, after strong international competition from other high-speed vessel designs, “WestPac Express” once more proved to offer the best value, commercially and technically. That charter was subsequently extended to February 2012. The new charter was awarded after a similar competitive tendering process.

Included in the ship’s many achievements over the years was its support of humanitarian relief operations following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.

 

December 22, 2011