Historic shipyard caissons on sale in disposal effort

For sale: Unique 1911 and 1918 watercraft. VERY low mileage. 4.5 million pounds of history in these must-see models. Clean titles, no accidents. Need some TLC. You haul. Best offer.

The classified ad isn’t real, but the opportunity is. After a combined 207 years of service to the Navy and the nation, two massive caissons used to seal off dry docks at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility are for sale.

Known only as Old Caissons 2 and 3, these enormous floating gates were once used to hold back the waters of Sinclair Inlet near Bremerton, Washington, so that shipyard workers could maintain and repair naval vessels in dry dock. Now, they’re on sale through the Defense Logistics Agency’s Disposition Services.

Weighing in at more than 3 million and 1.5 million pounds respectively, Old Caissons 2 and 3 are tied up pier-side at PSNS & IMF until the right buyer comes along or the shipyard disposes of them through recycling. According to Ty Olson, the Navy would very much prefer to find a buyer.

“If we have to dismantle the caissons and dispose of them through recycling, it’ll cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of man-hours that would be better spent serving the needs of today’s Navy,” Olson said. “So we’ve got a unique opportunity for someone to purchase a piece of history, whether they want to preserve it or dismantle it for sale as scrap.”

The history of these two unusual watercraft is significant. Old Caissons 2 and 3 were used at the 127-year-old shipyard’s Dry Docks 2 and 3 during the last century’s two world wars, when 24-hour-a-day operations at the shipyard supported the national war effort.

During World War I, the shipyard built 25 subchasers, seven submarines, two minesweepers, seven sea-going tugs, and two ammunition ships, as well as 1,700 small boats. Its record of service during World War II was even more impressive. About a third of the entire American fleet was repaired or serviced there during the war – including five battleships damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“These caissons have seen a lot of our Navy’s history evolve inside our dry docks,” Olson said. “But their time has passed, and we have to dispose of them. So there’s an opportunity here for someone who’s thinking outside the box.”

Olson said the caissons are seaworthy for towing locally within the Puget Sound, although a longer tow or a venture into the open Pacific would require careful evaluation first. Still, moving the caissons to a new site for repurposing or salvaging is doable. Old Caisson 2 comprises more than 2 million pounds of steel; Old Caisson 3’s steel content weighs in at just under one million pounds.

“The chances are exponentially better the wider the circulation of this great and unique opportunity that is available to the public to save these pieces of Naval history before they are gone forever,” said Ronald Williams of DLA Deposition Services.

Interested parties who want more background information about the caissons can contact Olson at ty.olson@navy.mil. To discuss the terms of a potential sale, contact DLA’s Williams at (269) 961-4140.