Contract awarded to Alabama

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2008

NATCHEZ — The Navy has awarded an Australian-based company a $1.6 billion contract to build 10 high-speed military transport ships in Mobile, Ala., said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Austal USA was competing with two other shipbuilders, including Bollinger Shipyards, which according to Gov. Haley Barbour was considering building similar ships in Natchez.

During his keynote speech at the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce dinner in October, Barbour said he felt confident that Bollinger would locate a shipyard in Natchez if they were awarded the contract. In the past, Barbour said the contract could mean an additional 500 to 1,500 jobs.

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It is not clear whether the Alabama contract will affect a possible Natchez development.

Local economic development authorities would not comment on the issue.

The victory will be a boon to Austal’s operations on the Mobile River, which has about 1,000 employees.

The Navy had not yet confirmed Shelby’s statement Thursday.

Austal specializes in high-speed ferries and transport vessels. It opened a U.S. facility on the Mobile River in 1999.

Executive Director of the Natchez-Adams Development Authority Jeff Rowell said he could not discuss the matter.

“At this stage, the Natchez-Adams County Development Authority is not at liberty to comment on this particular project. We have signed confidentiality agreements on information directly or indirectly related to the subject.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.