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Union-contracted Matson Navigation Company has signed a contract with Aker Philadelphia Shipyard to build two 3,600-TUE containerships. The vessels will be called Aloha Class with the first to be named in honor of the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, who served the state of Hawaii in Washington from 1959 until his death last year.

The vessels will be equipped with dual fuel engines that will have liquefied natural gas capability. They are expected to be delivered from the unionized shipyard in late 2018 for use in the Jones Act trade between Hawaii and the American west coast.

“We are pleased to introduce the Aloha Class containership, built specifically to meet Hawaii’s future freight demands with increased cargo capacity,” said Matt Cox, president and chief executive officer of Matson. “The new ships are designed to accommodate the diversified mix of cargo needed to support the state’s economy and will boost our capacity for moving 45-foot containerships and refrigerated cargo.

“The decision to name the first Aloha Class ship in honor of Senator Inouye was a natural one. He left an unparalleled legacy in Hawaii history, and was a true champion of the U.S. Merchant Marine.”

Cox added, “He is recognized throughout the maritime industry as one of its most powerful advocates. Having a modern, U.S.-flag containership dedicated to serving Hawaii bear his name is an appropriate tribute to this great man.”

MTD President Michael Sacco praised the announcement, noting that it underscores the importance of the Jones Act, the continued viability of America’s domestic fleet and the skills and professionalism of unionized shipbuilders in this country.

On a personal level, Sacco noted, “Danny Inouye was a great, great friend of mine and a great, great friend to every unionized shipbuilder and civilian mariner in this country. There wasn’t a fight involving the U.S. maritime industry on Capitol Hill that he didn’t lead and lead effectively. He deserves this and every honor that is bestowed upon him.”