August 15 - Crowley Maritime Coporation's ocean class tugboat Ocean Sky and heavy lift barge 455-4 has provided support to shipbuilder Austal USA during the launch of the newly built U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), USS Montgomery.

Back in 2010, designer and manufacturer of defence and commercial ships Austal was contracted to build ten 127 m LCSs for the U.S. Navy.

John Ara, vice president, solutions, at Crowley explained that the company was contracted to deliver one of its barges to Mobile, Alabama, to help transport the second of the ten LCSs from Austal's facility to the BAE Systems' floating dry dock, Alabama.

Crowley's tug Ocean Sky delivered the heavy lift barge to Mobile from Orange, Texas.

was first moved from Austal's shoreside assembly zone to the deck of Crowley's 455-4, which required hoisting the 1,600-tonne warship almost 3 ft (0.9 m) off the ground and shifting it 400 ft (121.9 m) on board the ballasted barge using SPMTs.

Once the naval ship was securely onboard the barge, local harbour tugs shifted the vessel to BAE Systems' dry dock, where SPMTs helped drive the LCS onto the floating dock.

Once onboard, the dry dock Alabama was submerged and the USS Montgomery entered the water.

"This project was a little bit different from most of our other heavy haulage projects," explained Ara. "We listened to Austal's needs and developed a programme for them."

Ara explained that Austal used local companies for the other parts of transportation - including heavy haulage contractor, Berard Transportation - but Crowley had discussions with the shipbuilder before on how to use its barge. One of Crowley's port engineers was present at the job.

Austal will utilise Crowley's 455-4 barge again in September, during the launch of the U.S. Navy's Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), Trenton.