Kenway wins contract to manufacture composite submarine camels

The four composite camels — large semi-submerged structures that separate a pier from a berthed submarine — weigh more than 100,000 lb each and replace steel predecessors that were prone to corrosion.

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Kenway Corp. (Augusta, Maine, USA) reported on Jan. 14 that it has been awarded a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract to manufacture four sets of composite submarine camels for the U.S. Naval Submarine Base New London (Conn., USA). The composite camels are large semi-submerged structures used to create a protective barrier between submarines and piers while the vessels are berthed. When complete, each composite camel will measure 38 by 18 by 18 ft (11.6 by 5.5 by 5.5m) and will weigh more than 100,000 lb/45.4 metric tonnes.

Kenway president Ian Kopp says, “As Kenway has diversified its composites manufacturing business from strictly heavy industrial customers to a broader customer base, we have excelled where advanced manufacturing technology requirements meet value-added components. The demanding service requirements and inherent manufacturing challenges of the U.S. Navy’s composite camel program fit the company’s core competencies perfectly.”

Kenway says the composite camel design represents an innovation for the U.S. Navy. In 2000 the Navy developed a set of composite submarine camels as part of a demonstration project. While steel camels had a lower up front cost, the life cycle costs were significantly higher due to accelerated corrosion in the harsh marine environment. After 10 years in service, the prototype composite camels have required virtually no maintenance, which has lead the Navy to replace the steel design with the composite alternative. The composite camels also represent a Navy focus on standardization, where the system can be manufactured in Augusta, Maine, shipped anywhere in the world, and assembled. The project will take two years to complete.

Kenway is collaborating on this project with a range industry partners. Kenway senior project engineer Jake Marquis says, “Our material suppliers have played key roles in this project, allowing us to innovate with improved materials and manufacturing processes while still building to the Navy’s standard design. Also essential has been collaboration with the Advanced Structures & Composites Center at the University of Maine, where we have evaluated materials and conducted testing.”