KITTERY, Maine (AP) – A $ 158 million project that is part of the Navy’s plan to make Portsmouth Shipyard more efficient and less dependent on the tides took a big step forward on Monday with the arrival of ‘a key element.
Maine-based Cianbro spent a year and a half building the 5,000-ton concrete entrance to one of the shipyard’s three dry docks. The massive structure arrived by barge on Monday.
This is a key component of the “Superflood Basin” project that will allow Virginia-class attack submarines to enter Dry Dock # 1 without a buoyancy aid system.
“The arrival of the inlet structure brings us closer to a tidal independent operation of the Piscataqua River and optimizes our dry dock operations for years of safer and more efficient use,” said Captain Daniel Ettlich, commander of the shipyard, in a statement.
This is part of a $ 21 billion effort to modernize the country’s four public shipyards, each of them over a century old, to speed up maintenance and repairs at a time when the Navy is facing increasing threats around the world.
A congressional watchdog has warned aging public shipyards are not fully meeting the needs of the military. Upgrades are underway at all four: Norfolk Shipyard in Virginia, Puget Sound Shipyard in Washington, and Pearl Harbor Shipyard in Hawaii, in addition to Portsmouth Shipyard.
The 220-year-old Portsmouth Shipyard is the country’s oldest continuously operated public shipyard.
The shipyard is responsible for repairing and overhauling nuclear powered submarines for the Navy.
The Superflood Basin which involves Dry Dock # 1 is one of the shipyard’s biggest upgrades. This dry dock is the shallowest of the three dry docks at the Seavey Island Shipyard.
Similar to a navigation lock, the basin will raise and lower the seawater level, allowing the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines to enter the dry dock regardless of the tide.
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