The Army’s Theater Support Vessel program could help enhance the U.S.
maritime industrial base by creating export opportunities within the $400 million
annual global market for high-speed ferries and transport ships, according to
a recent Department of Commerce study.
The study, titled “Theater Support Vessel Procurement: Industrial Base
Assessment of the Potential Economic And Dual Sourcing Impacts,” examines
domestic shipyards, their key suppliers, the workforces, and local and regional
The TSV is a high-speed aluminum hull vessel that may use a catamaran design.
The DOC study looked at industrial implications from the acquisition of seven
vessels, and what would occur if up to 24 vessels were procured in both single
and dual sourced strategies. Under both scenarios, the report concluded that
the United States needs to develop and maintain shipbuilding skills.
Building the initial seven vessels will have an initial economic impact of
more than $1.3 billion dollars on the regional economy of the shipyard chosen
to build the craft, depending on the U.S. content of key components. Should
all 24 vessels be built, that economic impact rises to almost $4.6 billion from
2004 through 2016 if a single yard is chosen.
Having two shipyards build the TSV would cut the overall production timeline
The average TSV job would pay about $16 per hour, which represents about 18
percent more than the average wage within the regions visited. Almost 43 percent
of all TSV workers are considered highly skilled.
Aluminum welding is one of the critical skills, because the TSV conceivably
could be built almost exclusively of aluminum. According to the shipyards surveyed,
most of the welding done by their current workforces is steel-based, whereas
aluminum welding requires completely different skill sets and is more difficult,
as a result of the specific properties of the metal.
The study finds that benefits from TSV-related construction would extend to
other professional jobs, such as high-speed ship design and aluminum vessel
engineering. These new skill sets would help to expand the nation’s manufacturing
and defense industrial base, as well as make U.S. shipyards more competitive
in emerging markets, such as high-speed ferry and transport-vessel design and
construction, said the report.
The study was sponsored by the DOC’s Bureau of Industry and Security,
Office of Strategic Industries and Economic Security, Strategic Analysis Division.
Led by Division Director Brad Botwin, a team of analysts traveled to shipyards
capable of building the TSV to gather the information for the study on site.
The data were analyzed using the DOC Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS)
model, developed by the agency’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The exact shipbuilders surveyed are not identified in the study and their inputs
are aggregated to protect their proprietary information. In the aggregate, materials
costs are about 60 percent of the total TSV cost; labor, about 40 percent. The
estimated cost is $141 million per vessel.
The study underscores the importance of a healthy U.S. shipbuilding industry
to the United States and reinforces earlier DOC analysis, which linked the economic
health of industries such as shipping and national security. According to the
report, “Most of the leading components and subsystems comprising each
TSV are produced by sectors of American manufacturing that have faced major
global competitiveness challenges since the early 1990s.” For that reason,
building the TSV within the United States will be beneficial to industries such
as relays and industrial controls, fabricated structural metal, internal combustion
engines, mechanical power transmission equipment, blowers and fans, pipes, valves
and pipe fittings, electric motors and generators, and electrical equipment
for internal combustion engines.
Additional information about the Office of Strategic Industries and Economic
Security publications is available at www.bis.doc.gov/defenseindustrialbaseprograms/index.htm.
—by Sheila R. Ronis, the University Group Inc.