May 11, 2020 – With its long-standing motto of “Any Ship, Anytime, Anywhere,” Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has long prided itself on the versatility, availability, and scope of its work, and those qualities are continuing to ring true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aligned with the daily communications of its parent command Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), America’s Shipyard is open for business. In achieving its dual aims of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 while maximizing the mission of delivering combat power to the fleet, NNSY has achieved a slew of accomplishments in recent weeks.
Completing maintenance early on USS Georgia (SSGN 729). Getting USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) ready for certified status and readiness for naval aviation training. Completing critical path work on USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) to return it to the Fleet fully refueled and modernized. Achieving the first in-house cold spray repair of any of the four naval shipyards while supporting the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) project. Given the different locations, challenges and variety of vessels for these NNSY accomplishments, what’s their one commonality? They were all achieved in recent weeks in spite of the pandemic.
NNSY is also riding a hot streak of Intermediate Level Submarine and Carrier work this fiscal year, completing all repairs and continuous maintenance availabilities on time or early, and finishing 6 of 7 carrier windows of opportunity maintenance periods on time.
“On maximizing our mission, I look at the accomplishments of recent weeks, some of which have reached the highest levels of naval leadership, and I’m proud of our continued efforts to provide superior quality and reliable delivery back to the Fleet,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Kai Torkelson to the workforce. “These are great demonstrations of what our high-performing teams are capable of, even while contending with COVID-19. I thank you all for your personal leadership and resilience during this challenging time as we continue to minimize the spread and maximize the mission.”
In its work supporting the fleet, NNSY has tapped into creative solutions that in some cases were inconceivable two months ago. For the work on Georgia, multiple teams initially supporting another availability were combined and partnered with Kings Bay’s Nuclear Regional Maintenance Department (NRMD-KB) and Trident Refit Facility (TRF-KB). When team members had to contend with performing this maintenance for the first time, NNSY’s Pipefitter Shop (x. 56) built a mock up station and transported it to Kings Bay to provide valuable hands-on training prior to personnel performing the work onboard. Undeterred by the novel challenges of both the work and the operating environment, team members were able to complete the maintenance early while practicing appropriate physical distancing and donning COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).
NAVSEA Commander Vice Admiral Tom Moore said the safety measures leadership has implemented across all four public shipyards has helped to minimize additional cases. “We spread people out as much as possible by adding a third shift which reduces the number of people aboard the shipyards at any one time. We’ve provided additional PPE, instituted a screening process for people entering the shipyards, installed plexiglass protection in some work spaces where we can’t put six feet between people, increased the amount of cleaning and disinfecting of work areas, and provided cleaning kits to the workforce.”
America’s Shipyard has been an innovation leader in implementing some of these safety and health measures such as enhanced screening procedures for every person entering NNSY. Along with the effort being highlighted by local media outlets, NNSY received queries from other government agencies aiming to implement similar measures. Early in the response when cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer disappeared from store shelves and supply inventory systems, America’s Shipyard assembled kits and made sanitizer from scratch in-house using the World Health Organization (WHO) recipe. Between NNSY’s Sail Loft, Insulation Shop and teleworking employees, more than 32,000 cloth face masks have now been produced with more than two-thirds distributed to the workforce of nearly 11,000 employees. Employees now have multiple facemasks to change out and launder as needed, with the shipyard building an inventory of 50,000 to have at the ready in case of a similar scenario in the future. NNSY even assisted its fellow NAVSEA command of Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Newport News. When SUPSHIP was in need of face masks, the command put out a call on NAVSEA’s internal social media, and NNSY answered that same day with 100 new face masks.
During the pandemic, NAVSEA activities including NNSY have gone beyond their mission requirements, partnering with communities and organizations across the country making masks, face shields and designing new oxygen delivery systems. As a friend of two Infectious Disease Doctors at Sentara Norfolk General, Code 105 engineer Aaron Bass heard about the hospital’s shortage of PPE. Bass then produced a substitute respirator and face shield mount on his home 3D printer, sharing that design throughout the NAVSEA enterprise so it could be mass produced. “The NAVSEA workforce is unlike any other in the world,” said Moore. “I’m humbled and impressed with the resilience and the innovative drive I see in our women and men. Despite the challenges we are facing, they are finding new ways each and every day to support the Navy. I call NAVSEA the ‘Force Behind the Fleet,’ and while that’s a catchy phrase, there’s real truth behind those words.”
America’s Shipyard has a full slate of deliverables in the next several months, including completing USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) Engineered Refueling Overhaul, undocking USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and USS San Francisco (SSN 711), all while welcoming USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) for an Extended Carrier Incremental Availability. Aligned with the command’s organizational value of ownership, Torkelson sees these challenges ahead as opportunities to meet as America’s Shipyard continues to minimize the spread. “I’m proud to see how we’re making sacrifices and adjustments to maximize our mission this year,” said Torkelson. “Our workload in 2020 is full of opportunities to excel in readiness to the Fleet.”