HENDERSON, Australia, May 14 (UPI) -- Australian shipbuilder Austal has entered partnerships with Asia-Pacific shipyards to enhance support of U.S. Navy ships and those of other navies.
The partnership agreements with Unithai Shipyard and Engineering in Thailand and Vietnam's Cam Ranh Shipyard were announced at a defense exhibition in Singapore.
"We are very proud to have partnered with such reputable shipyards and we look forward to building mutually beneficial relationships to support the defense and commercial vessels in the region," said Austal Chief Executive Officer Andrew Bellamy.
"In particular, we are focused on developing a comprehensive capability tailored to support the requirements of the U.S. Navy's fleet of Littoral Combat Ships and Joint High Speed Vessels, both of which are expected to operate in the region."
Subsidiary Austal USA is building 10 JHSVs under a $1.6 billion contract and eight Independence-variant LCSs, six of which are a part of a 10-ship, $3.5 billion contract.
One LCS and one JHSV have been delivered.
"We have our own people and facilities in the western and northern Australia, as well as in the Philippines, and we are now well down the road of expanding our support capability both geographically and in terms of facilities and manpower," Bellamy said.
Under Austal's agreement with Unithai Shipyard and Engineering, the Thai company will be Austal's preferred repair shipyard for U.S.-owned commercial and defense vessels if repairs are needed while sailing near the country.
"The MOU (memorandum of understanding) is not only a significant milestone allowing Unithai Shipyard to step forward and exchange experience and expertise with a globally reputable defense prime contractor and shipbuilder, but it is also essential to promoting the shipyard industry in Thailand, said Unithai Shipyard Managing Director Teerapon Udomkanjananan.
"Unithai Shipyard is strongly committed to delivering the best-quality service in the entire range of ship repair projects referred by Austal."
The Vietnamese shipyard is one of 26 shipyards within the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group, Vinashin, whose majority shareholder is the Vietnamese government.
Cam Ranh Shipyard was established in 2005 and is the largest shipyard in the country. Following a warming of relations between the United States and Vietnam, the shipyard in 2010 performed maintenance on the USNS Richard E. Byrd, a dry cargo and ammunition ship.
"Cam Ranh Shipyard has already carried out work on multiple (U.S.) Military Sealift Command ships, which demonstrates it has the ability to undertake repair and maintenance to MSC requirements effectively and cost-efficiently," Bellamy said. "Our expertise with high speed craft such as the LCSs and MSC-operated JHSVs will enable Cam Ranh Shipyard to expand on its existing activities, and Austal to provide better support ships operating in or transiting through the western part of the South China Sea."
The agreements with the shipyards follow a similar deal in January with Singapore's Sembawang Shipyard Pte Ltd. They also come as the United States focuses its naval assets on the Asia-Pacific region.