Philly Shipyard Inc. got a much-needed boost Wednesday: It won a major contract to build two training ships for the U.S. Maritime Administration, in an award package worth $630 million.

The venture is expected to support about 1,200 local jobs. Planning work has begun. Construction will start next year and the first two ships are due to be finished in the spring and winter of 2023.

If the federal government opts to purchase three more ships, the total contract would be worth $1.5 billion down the road.

"Philadelphia has been home to our nation's shipbuilding for more than two centuries, and there is not a better and more capable workforce anywhere else in the country," Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D., Delaware County) said in a statement Wednesday.

Scanlon advocated for the shipyard in negotiations with Trump administration officials over the last year, her office said. And a dozen members of Congress from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware lobbied the Department of Transportation to send that work Philly's way.

As the shipyard completed construction on a pair of massive container ships last year, the company scrambled to line up new business, and had to lay off hundreds of workers. The future of the shipyard was at risk.

CEO Steinar Nerbovik set his sights on winning government contracts. "Securing this award is a major milestone in our strategy to reposition the yard for government and commercial projects," Nerbovik said in a statement Wednesday. "We look forward to delivering on our promises."

Last year, the Maritime Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, chose TOTE Services as the vessel construction manager on the project. TOTE, in turn, tapped Philly Shipyard to build the vessels.

The new ships will replace an aging fleet at state maritime academies. Known as National Security Multi-Mission Vessels, each one "will feature modern hospital facilities, a helicopter pad and the ability to accommodate up to 1,000 people in times of humanitarian need," according to TOTE.

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