Navy Takes Delivery of New Tonnage, More on Way


April 2014

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For the SIU, good news and new tonnage keep coming from a union shipyard on the West Coast.


The U.S. Navy on March 12 took delivery of a mobile landing platform (MLP) ship that will be crewed by Seafarers. A few weeks earlier, construction began on the world’s first LNG-powered containership, which also will be operated by an SIU-contracted company.


Operated by Ocean Shipholdings, the MLP – the USNS John Glenn – was built at General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, the same yard that also is constructing new Marlin-class containerships for TOTE, Inc.


“These vessels signify new jobs for SIU members, and they also showcase the great capabilities of American shipyards,” said SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker. “Within these two new-build programs alone, you can see how the U.S. Merchant Marine supports our military and our economy.”


Fireworks marked the first cut of steel in a ceremony Feb. 24 as construction of the initial LNG-powered ship started.


“These ships will be the most advanced, environmentally progressive vessels of their kind,” said U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. “They also represent $350 million in U.S. investment, 600 American shipyard jobs, and the bright future of the indispensable domestic maritime industry.”


According to NASSCO, the Marlin-class vessels, which will sail in the Jones Act trade, mark a new age in American shipbuilding. TOTE’s back-to-back announcements in 2012 – converting its existing RO/ RO fleet in Alaska and investing in new containerships for the Puerto Rico trade – began “what can only be described as a change of tide in the U.S. maritime industry toward LNG as the new maritime fuel,” the shipyard said in a news release.


“Clean-burning, LNG offers unmatched environmental benefits, reducing emissions below even the world’s most stringent standards,” NASSCO observed. “The new Marlin class will create a reduction of sulfur dioxide (SOx) emissions by 98 percent, particulate matter (PM) by 99 percent, nitrous oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 71 percent over TOTE’s ships currently operating in Puerto Rico.”


“The move to LNG fuel is no less significant than the evolution from sail to steam,” said Mark Tabbutt, chairman of Saltchuk, TOTE’s parent company. “The Marlins represent the start of a new age in American maritime.”


Speakers at the February event included Hunter; Acting Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen; Tabbutt; and Kevin Graney, general manager of the NASSCO shipyard.


TOTE has ordered two containerships and has options to build up to three additional ones. Each will be 764 feet long.


“We are excited to begin construction of the lead ship on this historic project,” said Fred Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO and himself a former union mariner. “All of the stakeholders on this first-of-a-kind program … are completely focused on its success. We are beginning construction at a level of design, planning and material readiness that is unsurpassed.”


The Marlins, which will home port in Jacksonville, Fla., are expected to enter service in late 2015 and early 2016. TOTE recently announced it entered into an agreement with Pivotal LNG and WesPac Midstream to provide LNG to the ships.


Meanwhile, the SIU also welcomed news that the USNS John Glenn became the second MLP delivered to the Navy. The ship is named after the Honorable John Glenn for his exceptional and decorated service as a U.S. Marine Corps pilot, astronaut and U.S. senator. Glenn, 92, attended the vessel’s christening Feb. 1 at the yard.


Construction of the USNS John Glenn began in April 2012. The 785-foot-long auxiliary ship will serve as a floating base for amphibious operations, and operate as a transfer point between large ships and small landing craft.


“This is a great day for the NASSCO, Navy and Military Sealift Command team,” said Harris upon the Glenn’s delivery. “We are delivering this ship with the quality, innovation and capability needed to support the future missions of the nation’s fleet and uniformed men and women around the world.”


NASSCO is currently building the third ship of the class, which will be configured as an afloat forward staging base. It is scheduled for undocking in November and delivery in the second quarter of 2015.



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