Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy laid the keel for its 12th Expeditionary Fast Transport, the future USNS Newport, at Austal USA's shipyard in Mobile, Ala.
During a ceremony, the keel of the fast transport ship was "truly and fairly laid" and was authenticated by sponsor Charlotte Dorrance Marshall of Newport, R.I. The board member of the Hamilton Family Charitable Trust signed her initials into the keel plate of the future Newport, which will be the fourth ship named after the Rhode Island city. A completion date wasn't announced.
"We are excited to celebrate a major milestone in the construction of the 12th EPF of the class," Capt. Scot Searles, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager of Program Executive Office Ships, said in a Navy news release. "These ships have proven versatility and capability, allowing them to be strategic assets to our fleet and partners abroad."
The non-combatant vessels are designed to operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways for a wide range of activities, including humanitarian assistance and relief operations in small or damaged ports.
It carries a civilian crew under Navy command like other USNS ships but often has military personnel attached.
EPFs can transport 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ships include airline-style seating for 312 embarked forces and fixed berthing for 104.
Nine ships in the class are currently operational.
The 10th EPF, the USNS Burlington, was delivered to the Navy last November. Austal USA is currently in production on the No. 11 EPF, the Puerto Rico. The Navy issued Austal contracts in late 2018 for EPF 13 and EPF 14.
Last month, Austal was awarded contracts for the construction of the Navy's next two Independence-class littoral combat ships, LCS 36 and LCS 38.
On Tuesday, Austal USA reported it was being investigated as "separate but related" to an inquiry of the parent company by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.