USA: General Dynamics NASSCO Hosts Keel Laying Ceremony


General Dynamics NASSCO hosted a keel laying ceremony for the Lewis and Clark class dry cargo-ammunition ship T-AKE 14 at the company’s shipyard in San Diego. Mrs. Min Kaskin served as keel authenticator for the ceremony.

She is the wife of Jonathan D. Kaskin, Director, Strategic Mobility/Combat Logistics Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

Mrs. Kaskin authenticated T-AKE 14’s keel by welding her initials on to a steel plate. The plate will be permanently affixed to the foundation of the ship, becoming a part of the ship’s structure and will sail with the vessel throughout its time in service.

During the course of the decade-long T-AKE Program, General Dynamics NASSCO has implemented more than 20,000 ideas to drive down costs and improve quality as part of its continuing commitment to the efficient production of world-class ships for the U.S. Navy. These enhancements are the result of ongoing process improvement initiatives, Lean Six Sigma projects, facility investments of more than $300 million since 2000 and capturing and rigorously applying lessons learned. Included in these process improvements has been a comprehensive cost reduction effort that has cut the labor hours required to build a T-AKE ship by more than 60 percent.

“The efficiency and quality reputation of this program is well documented. In just five years, NASSCO has reduced the labor hours required to build a T-AKE by more than 60 percent, while completing construction in half the scheduled time required to build the first T-AKE ship,” said Fred Harris, President of General Dynamics NASSCO. “This has been accomplished by freeing the intellectual horsepower of our people. The unleashed ideas and capabilities of our highly skilled trades workers are directly benefiting our customer in the product we are delivering to the U.S. fleet.”

“The ability of our workforce has built a strong foundation for this program, and those yet to come. Their ideas are the currency of our next success,” said Harris.

General Dynamics NASSCO began construction of T-AKE 14 in October 2010. The ship is scheduled to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in the fourth quarter of 2012. When T-AKE 14 enters the fleet, the 689-foot long ship will join other Military Sealift Command vessels built by NASSCO to deliver as much as 10,000 tons of food, ammunition, fuel and other provisions at one time to combat ships at sea supporting military or humanitarian duties in places like Japan, south Asia and the Mediterranean.

The keel of a ship is a large beam around which the hull of a ship is built. The keel runs in the middle of the ship, from the bow to the stern, and serves as the foundation or spine of the structure, providing the major source of structural strength of the hull. The keel is generally the first part of a ship’s hull to be constructed, and laying the keel, or placing the keel in the cradle in which the ship will be built, is a momentous event in the ship’s construction.

Located in San Diego, General Dynamics NASSCO employs more than 3,600 people and is the only major ship construction yard on the West Coast of the United States. In addition to T-AKE 14, the San Diego shipyard has already delivered 11 T-AKE ships to the Navy and is currently building the William McLean (T-AKE 12) and the Medgar Evers (T-AKE 13), for a total class of 14 vessels.
Source: nassco, May 11, 2011;