U.S. Boat Builder Tackles a Rare Project--Cruise Ship


Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding is piecing together something that hasn’t been made in America in more than four decades--a cruise ship.

Ingalls’ contract with Miami-based American Classic Voyages Co. created a new line of business for a company that for more than 60 years has been building Navy destroyers and other ships. When the spinoff businesses are added in, the so-called Project America means hundreds of new jobs in and around this small Gulf Coast city.

The 1,900-passenger ship under construction will be the largest cruise vessel ever built in the United States. In June the shipyard will begin work on a second ship for American Classic Voyages, and there’s an option for a third. The contract’s potential value is $1.4 billion.


“Very few U.S. yards have the capability to build a vessel this size,” said Philip Calian, chief executive of American Classic Voyages. “We take Ingalls at their word that they’re ready and willing and able to complete the job.”

Some 900 Ingalls employees are working on the first ship, which will be 840 feet long and weigh 72,000 tons. But the massive effort also includes companies from around the globe.

For example, the ship’s design work is taking place in Finland, electric motors and switchboards are coming from France, the boilers are being built in Italy and the automation systems in Sweden. More than a dozen representatives of those and other suppliers are working at or near the shipyard.

“If I take everyone who’s working on this, we’re operating in about 10 countries and 22 states and all over the Internet on commercially secure software,” said Kevin Jarvis, Ingalls’ program manager for the project.

Construction of the two cruise ships will help Ingalls, Mississippi’s largest private employer, maintain a work force of about 10,000. At peak construction next year, about 2,300 people will be working on the ships.

Project America is also creating businesses in and around Pascagoula.

Hopeman Brothers Marine Interiors of Waynesboro, Va., and Jamestown Metal Marine Sales Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., have formed a joint venture company to design, build and install more than 1,200 passenger and crew cabins for each ship.


To handle the work, the Joiner Team LLC has built a 75,000-square-foot assembly plant in Pascagoula and expects to hire as many as 700 people.

In addition, Noskab, a company based in Aberdeen, Scotland, has bought a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in nearby Moss Point to store and cut electrical cable for the ships.

Ingalls will spend $450,000 on 18 portable office buildings to establish a “subcontractors village” as construction moves forward. The company is nearing completion of a two-year, $130-million upgrade that will enhance its commercial and military shipbuilding capability.

“If you take an overlay of what we call the craft mix--pipe fitters, electricians and painters--the cruise ship pie chart very closely mirrors that of a Navy ship,” Jarvis said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re building these ships here.”

Cruise ships are not a completely new business to Ingalls. The company delivered the last two passenger cruise ships built in the United States--the SS Brasil and the SS Argentina--in 1958. Both are still in operation.

Cruise ship construction in the United States began fading after World War II because of cheaper foreign labor and European shipyard subsidies. By 1967, foreign-built ships dominated the industry.


With so much invested in the deal with American Classic Voyages, Ingalls is vying for contracts with other cruise ship companies, spokesman Jim McIngvale said.

“This is not the only cruise ship business that’s available over the next 10 years,” McIngvale said. “This is obviously our chance to prove ourselves.”

According to the Cruise Line International Assn., nearly 7 million North Americans took a cruise last year, a 16.8% increase from 1999.

Ingalls expects to finish the first ship for American Classic Voyages in 2003 and the second a year later.

They will feature 950 passenger cabins, a 1,060-seat dining room, a seven-deck atrium and a cabaret lounge. The ship’s air-conditioning system would be big enough for 900 homes, Jarvis said.

American Classic Voyages will use the ships in the Hawaiian Islands, where it already has two ships cruising.