The General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard has been bustling with activity, and most of the news emanating from the San Diego facility affects SIU members.
At press time, the union yard was set to host a christening ceremony for the ECO tanker Constitution, which was built for American Petroleum Tankers (APT), parent company of SIU-contracted Seabulk Tankers. That event was slated for August 27.
Also on the calendar is the Sept. 17 christening of the Bay State, which is part of the same class as the Constitution. The Bay State is the fourth of five LNG-conversionready Jones Act tankers being built for APT.
The third ship in the ECO class, the Garden State, was delivered in late July. Each of the 50,000 dwt tankers has a 330,000-barrel cargo capacity and is 610 feet long.
Those aren’t the only recent bulletins from NASSCO. On Aug. 2, the yard hosted a keel-laying ceremony for the future USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams, the fourth ship of the Montford Point class. Known as an expeditionary sea base, the ship is being named for the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. The former chief warrant officer attended the ceremony.
Finally, earlier this summer NASSCO announced that it has been awarded a U.S. Navy contract for the design and construction of the next generation of fleet oilers, signaling job opportunities for members of the SIU Government Services Division. The contract calls for the construction of six ships (the John Lewis class).
The flurry of stories from NASSCO (whose president, Fred Harris, sailed as a union mariner) was noteworthy but not necessarily unusual. The Garden State milestone, for example, marked the seventh vessel delivery in a little more than one year.
“In the past year, NASSCO shipbuilders have delivered seven ships – or the equivalent to 100,000 tons’ worth of steel,” said Kevin Graney, vice president and general manager for General Dynamics NASSCO. “Among the seven vessels delivered, three have been lead ships: the world’s first containership powered by liquefied natural gas, the U.S. Navy’s first expeditionary sea base and the nation’s most fuel efficient product tanker. We are proud of the diverse design and build portfolio we have delivered during the course of this year.”
All of those vessels carry or will carry SIU crews, including the Tote-operated Isla Bella and Perla Del Caribe. Those LNG-powered containerships (each 764 feet long) sail in the Jones Act trade between Jacksonville, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
During the ceremony for the Williams, the vessel’s namesake – a retired Marine – addressed the crowd. He and his two daughters welded their initials onto the keel of the ship.
Many dignitaries and fellow Medal of Honor recipients attended the ceremony, including retired Marine Corps Col. Robert Modrzejewski, a Medal of Honor recipient recognized for his conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War; Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward Byers, Jr., a Medal of Honor recipient recognized for his efforts during a hostage rescue in Afghanistan; and Brigadier Gen. William M. Jurney, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.
“The story of Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is remarkable. It’s a story of valiant devotion, extraordinary courage and American heroism,” said Graney. “We have the distinct honor of constructing a ship that will reflect the strength and fearlessness of its namesake and will provide global, advanced capabilities for future generations of Marines and sailors to come.”
The 784-foot-long ship will serve as a flexible platform to support a variety of missions, including air mine countermeasures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security and humanitarian missions. It will provide for accommodations for up to 250 personnel and will feature a 52,000-square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, and will also support MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters with an option to support MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The ship is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2018.
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