Fleet Forces: Ship Repair Delays Increased in 2022 Due to Labor, Material Challenges
More ship maintenance availabilities are running long this year due largely to labor challenges and material issues, the fleet maintenance officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command said Tuesday.
This comes despite a pair of Navy-run efforts to tackle barriers to on-time maintenance. Rear Adm. Bill Greene said the service currently has 41 surface ships in a major maintenance period, with more than 100 additional in planning.
“For surface ships, we expect to finish 36% on time in [fiscal 2022], there’s just a few days left in the year. And this is versus 44% for last year. So we are going in the wrong direction with regard to on-time delivery,” the admiral said at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium.
However, he said, the ships coming out of maintenance late have lost fewer days of operational time. “The cumulative days of maintenance delay, which we also track, have consistently gone down,” Greene said. “In FY20, an 18% reduction, and in ‘21, an 8% reduction. So we are, in a way to say, less late on those late deliveries.”
Greene cited record attrition and said the shipyards are well behind in their hiring plans.
At the Navy’s four public naval shipyards, the workforce is about 1,000 people short, a trend that will continue into FY23.
Although Greene couldn’t provide exact data on private repair yards, which perform maintenance on surface ships, he did say he’s been told all the companies are facing the same shortages: specially skilled trade workers, engineers and IT technicians.
He called this a “national crisis,” saying that car-builders and other manufacturers across the country can’t find enough people to fill these jobs and keep up with workload.
And the Navy is trying to help industry by providing a stable, predictable workload. Naval Sea Systems Command has started issuing some contract bundles for multiple ship availabilities to help companies better plan their resources, and Greene said that could happen more.
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Next-Generation Attack Subs Will Be Designed With Maintenance In Mind
With its Virginia class of attack submarines suffering from maintenance woes and low operational availability, the U.S. Navy is working to ensure its next attack submarine is easier to sustain, according to the program executive officer for attack submarines.
The Navy has 50 attack submarines, but 18 of those are in maintenance and not available to operational commanders, according to Rear Adm. Jon Rucker.
“That’s too high a number,” he said Sept. 21 at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium here. He noted submarine maintenance has faced challenges in planning availabilities, executing the work and keeping sufficient parts and material on hand for the repair periods.
Rucker said PEO Attack Submarines is revisiting the maintenance plan for these Virginia SSNs in the hopes of improving sustainment and that the Navy must take a better approach while designing the SSN(X) next-generation attack submarine to ensure high operational availability and easier sustainment throughout the lifecycle.
Navy Pilot Program to Plug Ships Into Shore-Based Infrastructure in San Diego
The US Navy has entered into a unique agreement with the Port of San Diego that will allow its ships to plug into and pull power from shore-based infrastructure, an arrangement that the Navy says will “provide millions of dollars for further electrification efforts” for both the local military base and the city.
The agreement makes use of an energy credit program, called the “Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) market” run by the state of California, in which organizations that use large amounts of fossil fuels must either increase their use of “plant-based carbon” or purchase credits to continue using fossil fuels.
For the Navy’s purposes, the service will generate credits with the state’s program by powering its ships while in port using California’s infrastructure, rather than generating power internally onboard the ship. The state will then sell the credits to other entities and use a portion of the funds to finance various energy and utility improvement projects at Naval Base San Diego.
In addition to the project investment for both the military base and the city, the agreement, which was signed on Tuesday in San Diego’s Cesar Chavez Park, aligns with the Biden administration’s executive orders directing all federal agencies to take steps to reduce their carbon emissions.