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VT Halter Marine awarded MARAD small shipyard grant

PASCAGOULA — VT Halter Marine, Inc. (VT Halter Marine), a company of ST Engineering North America, was awarded a grant of nearly $1.7 million for a 1,250‐ton press brake by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).

The grant of $1,695,118 was part of a total $19.6 million in discretionary grants to 24 U.S. shipyards through the Small Shipyard Grant Program. The funding will help modernize America’s shipyards, making them more efficient in constructing vessels. This funding will allow VT Halter Marine to purchase, install and train our personnel to operate the new press brake.

“We appreciate MARAD for its continued support of VT Halter Marine and our employees,” said Ron Baczkowski, President and CEO. “This grant enables us to replace and modernize our equipment and processes to fuel future growth along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The new machinery will replace the existing 750-ton press brake, which is 45 years old and has exceeded its useful life. While it has served us well, the existing machinery frequently requires repair and is no longer supported by spare parts.”

The larger, more efficient press brake will accommodate the increased thicknesses and higher grades of materials used in VT Halter Marine’s ongoing and future programs. Also, work will be accomplished more quickly using a larger capacity unit. In addition to having twice the bending force capacity, the new press brake is capable of computer numerically controlled operations using data taken directly from engineering drawings which will increase efficiency and productivity.

Press brakes use hydraulic rams to press a long die into flat plates to form curves or bends up to and including 90 degree angles, thereby making stiffer L-shapes (commonly referred to as flanged plates) from flat pieces of plate. As with our current press brake, this unit will be used to create flanged plate girders, flanged brackets, bilge keel plates, simple curvature hull plates and even conical shapes such as anchor bolsters from flat sheets of steel or aluminum plate.

According to MARAD, the economic footprint of American shipyards is nearly 400,000 jobs, $25 billion of labor income and $37 billion in gross domestic product.

“Small shipyard grants play a significant role in supporting local communities by creating jobs for working families,” said Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby in MARAD’s public announcement. “These shipyards are a tangible investment in our nation’s maritime infrastructure and the future of our maritime workforce.”

In fact, VT Halter Marine continues to ramp up its employee base as design and planning continues on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter. The company expects to cut the first plate of steel a year from now, and a new press brake is vital to the vessel’s construction.

“A significant amount of the hull plating will be contoured in a manner that will require the plates to be pre-shaped before installation,” Baczkowski said. “The most effective way to accomplish this is to bend the hull plates to the desired shape using a press brake before they are landed on the hull framing. Obtaining this new, modern equipment enables VT Halter Marine to continue to leverage information technology and to modernize our shipyard as we build America’s first heavy icebreaker (the Polar Security Cutter) in 40 years and other U.S. government and commercial new construction programs.”

VT Halter Marine expects that it will take six to nine months to procure the new press brake and another month to install and train employees. The old equipment will be dismantled and sold as scrap metal.

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