BATH, Maine — Bath Iron Works will continue its long-standing role of maintenance, repairs and upgrades to Navy warships following the award this week of a $70.5 million planning yard contract extension.
General Dynamics, BIW’s parent company, announced that the contract, initially awarded in June of this year, will continue the work through the end of 2013. The contract involves DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and FFG 7 Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, both of which BIW has been the lead design yard for, beginning in 1975 and 1989, respectively.
BIW spokesman James DeMartini said the design work could involve everything from technological upgrades to routine maintenance to major repairs. BIW has performed this work since at least the 1980s. In past years, the Bath shipyard has been involved in planning numerous projects, including repairs to the U.S.S. Porter after it collided with an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf earlier this year and the U.S.S. Cole, which was struck by a suicide bomber in 2000 while it was harbored in Yemen.
DeMartini said that typically, work on the ships is conducted in their home ports based on designs and other work performed in Bath. The other work typically includes BIW putting together materials for various jobs and in some cases, pre-assembling equipment for later installation. BIW has personnel at every home port for BIW-built ships, which includes Norfolk, Va.; Mayport, Fla.; San Diego, Calif.; Everett, Wash.; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Yokosuka, Japan.
“The Navy has us build these ships for 35 or 40 years of service life,” DeMartini said. “Just like a car or a house, the Navy wants to keep those ships up to date and maintained. In simple terms, we look at it as maintenance or modernization.”
In all, the contract makes BIW responsible for 84 ships.
BIW President Jeff Geiger said the contract extension announced this week is evidence of the Navy’s “continued confidence” in BIW’s abilities.
“Through this program, about 400 engineers, designers, logistics and materials specialists, as well as mechanics, will provide the U.S. Navy with high-quality, affordable post-delivery and modernization services to help ensure that the ships of the Navy’s surface combatant fleet are ready to be deployed when needed,” said Geiger in a press release from General Dynamics.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the contract was appropriate because of BIW’s previous lead-yard status on the ships’ construction.
“I can’t think of a better place for the Navy to go to plan for the maintenance and modernization of these vessels,” Pingree said in a written statement. “This contract represents $70 million of work at the yard next year, which is important to help keep some of the best shipbuilders in the world on the job.”
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, agreed.
“The awarding of these dollars is welcome news for BIW and its skilled workers,” she said in a written statement. “It also represents the Navy’s continuing commitment to the surface fleet, which is crucial for the future of the Navy and of our national security.”
Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins, said the $70.5 million in this contract was part of funding that Congress approved in the past. It was not part of the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill which passed on Wednesday.