Union Workers Build Infrastructure for New U.S. Navy Ship

Union Workers Build Infrastructure for New U.S. Navy Ship

January 4, 2024

FALL MAGAZINE STORY - Read about how union workers are finalizing the renovations on a $300 million shipyard for a new U.S. Navy vessel. To read the full magazine, click HERE.


Fincantieri Marinette Marine, in Marinette, Wisconsin, is currently finishing their $300 million shipyard renovations. The work is being completed in preparation for the contract Fincantieri signed in 2020 to build the new initial Constellation-class frigate, expected to arrive in 2026. The new vessels will be 496 feet in length with a 65-foot beam with an initial cost of nearly $800 million. Each is expected to weigh over 7,200 tons when fully loaded. 

There are never any guarantees when it comes to the US Navy’s shipbuilding contracts due to political changes. However, in May of 2023, the Navy took advantage of Fincantieri’s planned renovations by awarding them a $526 million contract to build a fourth Constellation-class frigate for the U.S. Navy. In total, the contract includes the lead frigate and nine additional ships with a potential cumulative value of $5.5 billion. These ships are designed to be smaller surface combatant vessels capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and electromagnetic warfare operation. They can be used far out in the ocean or near the shore and alone or in formations. The cornerstones of the four-project renovation includes Building 34 and the largest shiplift in the United States in anticipation of building the Navy’s new Constellation-class multi-mission guided-missile frigates. Building 34, the first of the four improvement projects, hosts two gigantic bays with the largest overhead doors you have ever seen. Building 34 can hold two full frigates inside.

The second major investment by Fincantieri, the shiplift, is under construction. Fincantieri contracted with Signatory Contractor Lunda Construction to build out the infrastructure required to support the lift. The infrastructure to support the lift is no small undertaking. Once completed, the two 500’ long pier structures will consist of over 10,000 yards of concrete and 2 million pounds of rebar all supported on 120 drilled shafts installed into the bedrock below the riverbed. Union carpenters and other building trades are performing all the work which will require over 100,000 man hours to complete.

Perlson Shiplift is the designer contracted to design the state-of-the-art shiplift system. When completed, the shiplift system will be 500 feet long by 82 feet wide and capable of handling vessels of nearly 10,000 tons. There are 12-20 workers working concurrently to construct the required infrastructure. Adam Gerondale, Director of Lunda’s Specialty Services Division, stated, “I am grateful to Fincantieri for the confidence they have instilled in Lunda to provide quality work on such an important project that will accommodate the next generation of U.S. Navy ships. Union workers will build this shiplift in the safest, most efficient manner possible to ensure our nations fleet can safely protect our men and women in the military while protecting our great country.”

All brand-new frigates will be moved from Building 34 to the newly built shiplift for their initial launch. Previously, the traditional method of launching ships included sliding it down a ramp and allowing it to splash into the Menominee River. Using the traditional method limited the yard in what work could be done prior to a ship’s launch, because the dramatic splash could damage certain components if they were installed while the ship was ashore.

With the new shiplift, the frigates will be able to be outfitted to near completion and tested inside Fincantieri’s climate-controlled facilities before being launched into the Menominee River. The new shiplift ensures the new frigates will receive a stern-first, gentle entry into the water. The shiplift will also give Fincantieri the capability to launch and retrieve larger vessels, which will be produced or repaired in their shipyard.

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Illustration of the shiplift with a Constellation-class frigate.

Without a doubt, the union labor building this shiplift is helping make Fincantieri a world-class shipyard. The U.S. Navy’s increased demands for the longer frigates will be realized because of Fincantieri’s investment. However, without the federal government’s pending military funding for the frigates, union workers may never have had the opportunity to build the largest shiplift in the United States. “We are also thankful for the federal government’s funding for the Navy’s budget and the confidence they placed in Fincantieri’s shipbuilding to trust they would be able to get this shiplift built in time for the launch of the initial Constellation-class frigate,” said Gerondale.