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April 8, 2021

With new destroyer underway, BIW looks to increase production and add workers

FILE PHOTO / TIM GREENWAY Bath Iron Works supported more than $1.8 billion in total economic output in 2021, including $980 million contributed to state GDP, a USM study shows.

Bath Iron Works this week celebrated the keel laying of the future USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr. destroyer and hosted the Acting Secretary of the Navy and Maine’s congressional delegation for an update on production schedules and tour of manufacturing and training facilities.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree were updated on efforts by BIW to increase production after a year marked by the pandemic and a prolonged labor strike.

BIW has committed to the Navy it will be at a pace to deliver 1.8 ships per year by the end of 2021, and two ships per year by next year. That would put BIW, which has 12 ships to deliver in six years, back on schedule. 

BIW employs 6,900 workers and has plans to hire 2,000 employees this year. So far, it’s hired roughly 500 of those. Last year, BIW suffered a 10-week strike by its largest union amid disagreements between the company and union over subcontracting and seniority. They reached a deal in August. 

During negotiations before the strike, BIW cited its production backlog as one reason it lost a $5.5 billion contract to build Navy frigates. That contract went to Fincantieri Shipbuilding in Wisconsin.

Tuesday’s ceremony

This week’s ceremony was for the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer named in honor of Harvey C. Barnum Jr., who received the Medal of Honor for valor in the Vietnam War. He was eventually named Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Barnum and his wife, Martha Hill, authenticated the keel by striking welding arcs onto a steel plate that will be incorporated into the ship. They were assisted by Marty Fish, a specialist welder, who has worked at BIW for 34 years.

The laying of the keel signifies the start of hull integration and the precursor to final integration, launch and sea trials.

In attendance was Harker, the Maine Congressional delegation, Navy personnel and BIW employees.

“The keel-laying ceremony is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment that a Bath-built ship is best built, at all stages of construction,” said Ed Kenyon, director of BIW’s new construction programs. “We are proud to be building the Harvey C. Barnum Jr. We will ensure that Col. Barnum’s ship will be ready to serve our nation, nobly, as he did during his service in Vietnam and subsequent service to our nation.”


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