Two shipyards separated by 5,000 miles collaborated on a major valve and piping replacement project aboard the USS San Francisco (SSN 711) conversion, completing the work 13 days early Aug. 12.
San Francisco arrived at NNSY Jan. 25 for its conversion from an operational fast-attack submarine into a Moored Training Ship (MTS), the second of two next-generation MTS’s slated to train nuclear officers and Sailors at Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) Charleston, South Carolina.
The collaboration between the two shipyards began in 2016 after the NNSY project team identified a critical skills gap that would not allow the project’s completion within the expected timeframe. Employees from PHNSY&IMF and NNSY completed joint site visits to ensure the project began with a shared vision of success, and schedulers at both shipyards worked closely to monitor potential impacts to the timeline.
“This job was successful because we communicated candidly, stayed flexible, and believed in our overall goal to support the Navy’s mission,” said Jantzen Nishikawa, PHNSY Project Superintendent. “We believed in the shared vision of One Shipyard. NNSY’s goals were also PHNSY’s goals. NNSY’s jobs were also PHNSY’s jobs.”
PHNSY employees specialize in Los Angeles-class submarines, so relying on that expertise was an easy decision for NAVSEA to make, according to San Francisco Project Superintendent Wallace Martin.
“We would have had to develop our own mock-up and train our people for a job that had never been done by NNSY,” said Martin. “Though I’m sure we would have risen to the challenge, we never would have been as good as Pearl because they have done the job numerous times. We would have had to recreate that infrastructure, training and proficiency. So by relying on Pearl’s team, we avoided significant additional costs to the Navy.”
Generally speaking, each public shipyard has the ability to deploy maintenance teams around the world, but jobs of this magnitude are rare for PHNSY, according to Assistant Project Superintendent for the PHNSY team, Ryne Sonoda.
“Pearl would normally deploy to Guam. Portsmouth and Puget normally deploy to San Diego. NNSY deploys all around the world,” said Deputy Project Superintendent Lt. Cmdr. Joe Rysavy. “This is a good exercise for Pearl to be able to deploy a large group of people to do this singular job. So from the One Shipyard perspective, our ability to complete complex maintenance thousands of miles away is a huge testament to NAVSEA’s capabilities.”
Rysavy said PHNSY and NNSY will both take home lessons learned and best practices from this project, and that will allow the corporation to be even more efficient the next time. “Pearl has a sense of ‘ohana,’ which means family in Hawaiian culture,” he said, “and now they are part of our ‘ohana’ here on the San Fran conversion project at NNSY. It’s never been ‘us’ or ‘them.’ It’s been ‘we.’ We needed to get this done, and a big part of the success story was really fostering these relationships.”
PHNSY Commanding Officer Capt. Greg Burton said the collaboration between the two shipyards proved the importance of the services both organizations provide.
“Our Navy has critical work to get done. It’s vital for the nation. Our country has four public and two private nuclear-capable shipyards, and we can’t always do what is assigned to us. When you get down into the specific skills needed, sometimes there are imbalances, and sometimes one yard has a specific skill. When the shipyards share, we learn faster. The high velocity learning piece is critical, and not just because it’s a Chief of Naval Operations’ priority, but because we recognize it as a corporation and we’ve set up communities of practice so we can share our knowledge. If we rely on the shipyards as single entities, we’re less efficient. Being able to share these teams allows us to get the nation’s work done.”
“I think it defines our unity. It shows the collaboration between two physically separated shipyards. Open and honest communication played a big role,” said Britt Wright, San Francisco Nuclear Job Planning Leader. “Doing this job together and executing it successfully is a huge accomplishment.”