Shipyards across the nation are quickly filling up with ships needing repairs and upgrades, including Naval Shipyard Puget Sound. This has caused many to begin upgrading their construction and maintenance facilities to meet the needs of a growing fleet.
Dry Docks Filled at Puget Sound
There are six dry docks at the shipyard to handle major overhauls and initial building. All slots are filled as the shipyard services several submarines and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier. The submarines are either being refueled or set for decommissioning. This yard is particularly important because of the care required for dealing with nuclear power plants from the vessels.
The USS Michigan and the USS Louisiana are Ohio-class submarines and both are receiving hull, superstructure, and tank preservation work. The Michigan, a cruise-missile variant, will also receive updated command and control systems and new batteries prior to returning to service in early 2021. The Louisiana will be under maintenance longer as it is also undergoing a reactor refueling before leaving the docks in 2022.
Two major projects represent the past and future of the Navy. The unique USS Narwhal is undergoing its final transformation prior to long-term storage. The USS Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf class, is receiving state-of-the-art upgrades to both the combat and control systems which will enable it to be among the most advanced underwater naval platforms in the world by the end of the year.
Finally, the USS Carl Vinson, and related carrier projects, will play a part in driving demand for upgrades to account for the F-35 Lightning II carrier-based fighters. The Vinson will carry the -C variants later this year after
Modernization Means More Work for Years to Come
Puget Sound is one of four shipyards in the Navy’s arsenal and is the largest in terms of workers at 14,000. The service branch is looking to expand its capabilities along with other facilities in Virginia, Hawaii, and New Hampshire with a $21 billion modernization plan. A key upgrade for the yard will include a crane capable of lifting 175 tons as well as other new equipment which will enable skilled craftsmen to work on the complex command and control systems required for interfacing with the latest fighters in the fleet.
Carriers in the Gerald R. Ford class have significant power requirements and advanced electronics systems. For this reasons, west coast dry docks are investigating investing in additional upgrades needed for these systems. These upgrades coincide with additional needs to retrofit the carriers to launch a complement of F-35 fighter jets.
The Navy is also expected to seek a larger workforce to remediate issues within maintenance timeframes. According to a recent article, the workload at the four public shipyards has already increased by 25 percent since 2010, and the number of workers has expanded by more than 30 percent.
However, Admiral Michael Gilday noted in the report that maintenance times are still lagging behind expected turnaround times with only 40 percent of vessels meeting overhaul schedules, a situation he expects remedied by staffing and equipment improvements. So, even with the rapid expansion buttressed by concerns about China and other foreign threats, the shipyards should expect to see more job growth over the next several years.
Brett Davis is the Director of West Coast Operations for Ameri-Force. With a strong background in operations management and sales growth, Brett has grown the west coast division significantly since joining Ameri-Force in 2018. Formerly with Enterprise Holdings, Brett earned numerous company awards and was credited with strong fiscal growth, employee retention, and business expansion. Brett holds a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from The Ohio State University.