Front Street Shipyard to team with Navatek on $8M Navy contract

Will build composite prototypes, collaborate on testing at sea
Aug 07, 2019
Courtesy of: Office of Sen. Susan Collins Navatek Vice President Dave Kring, Navatek CEO Martin Kao, Sen. Susan Collins, Front Street President JB Turner and Maggie Craig, Navatek deputy director of operations for Portland, from left, at the Aug. 6 announcement of an $8 million Navy contract in which Front Street will collaborate with Navatek.

Navatek, a hydrodynamic engineering firm, has won an $8 million contract from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research to research and design safer hulls and a new hybrid-electric propulsion system for the Navy’s small, high-speed boats.

Navatek will work directly with Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, which will combine its “Built in Maine” composites experience with Navatek’s research and engineering strength. Front Street will build the Navatek prototypes and collaborate on testing at sea.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and instrumental in securing funding for the contract, participated in the official announcement Tuesday at Navatek's office in Portland.

The Portland office was established in part to further the company's longstanding relationship with the University of Maine and the state's boat building supply chain, including Front Street Shipyard.

“Maine is home to the best shipbuilders in the world, and our state has long had an integral role in our national security," Collins said. "Navatek’s engineering and research strength, combined with Front Street’s composites experience, will benefit all of the Navy’s small-craft programs.”

The contract, which will run through 2022, will allow Navatek to more than double its Portland staff to 50 employees. Twelve Navatek employees are University of Maine mechanical engineering graduates.

Martin Kao, CEO of Honolulu-based Navatek LLC, said, “Our company is committed to the state of Maine, and thanks to Sen. Collins’ support, we have been able to partner with the University of Maine and the state’s boat building ecosystem to address the Navy’s new challenges and needs.”

According to the Portland Press Herald, Navatek is collaborating with UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center to design new materials for prototypes of the new "advanced planing hulls," and plans to use the university's 60-foot 3D printer, the largest in the world, to print boat molds.

JB Turner, president of Front Street Shipyards where the prototypes will be built, said Tuesday, “We’ve long believed that our experience with advanced composite construction for boats and ships will provide a key advantage to our Navy, and we are happy to team with Navatek to build our combined capabilities in this area through this new research program.”

The Portland Press Herald noted that the project comes in response to a high number of neck and back injuries among small boat operators, including Navy SEALS, resulting from high-speed impact with waves.

In addition to Honolulu and Portland, Navatek has offices in Orono, South Kingstown, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. Founded in 1979, the company has worked with the University of Maine for more than 15 years. It focuses on research in hydrodynamics and advanced ship design.

Sen. Susan Collins speaks with Michael Rober, one of Navatek’s engineers from UMaine, Aug. 6. In the background is JB Turner, president of Front Street Shipyard. (Courtesy of: Office of Sen. Susan Collins)
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