BAE Systems Operates Largest West Coast Dry Dock at Pier 70

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BAE Shipyard.  Photo: Jacob Bourne

Founded in 1999, BAE Systems is a global defense, aerospace and security solutions company, headquartered in London, operating in more than 40 countries and employing about 83,400 people. It’s one of the world’s largest defense contractors in terms of revenue, much of which comes from sales of products and services to militaries.

In addition to ship repair, the company’s global products and services extends to manufacturing aircraft and military land vehicles, supplying cyber, intelligence and security services to commercial clients, and creating a variety of electronic devices, such as surveillance products. 

Pier 70, near 20th and Illinois streets, is home to one of BAE Systems Inc.’s., a U.S.-based subsidiary, six American maritime hubs, including Norfolk, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; San Diego, California; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. BAE Systems focuses on repair, modernization and maintenance of U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and commercial ships. The company operates two dry docks at Pier 70, one of which is the largest of its kind on the West Coast.

“The shipyard has a history of more than 150 years with Navy ships,” said Karl Johnson, director of communications, BAE Systems. “We don’t build ships, we repair ships in the yard; some as small as work tug boats, up to cruise ships and large Navy cargo ships.”

The Pier 70 Shipyard features a dry dock with a 54,600 ton lift capability, and a smaller dry dock with a 14,500 ton lift. The full service repair facility caters to ships on Pacific Rim trade routes, including cruise liners from Alaska and Mexico, military vessels, Bay Area craft, container ships, dredge equipment, offshore rigs, research vessels and yachts. According to Johnson, though the dry docks can handle the largest vessels that navigate Pacific routes, there are ships in the world that exceed the dock’s weight limits which would need to be serviced elsewhere. In addition to dry docking and repair, BAE Systems provides vessel life extension, maintenance, marine fabrication, modernization, and ship conversion to enhance or change ship functionality.

“The ships we work on in the San Francisco Shipyard sail anywhere and everywhere,” explained Johnson. “We work on them and then they go back to their routes. We repair ships, do routine maintenance and get vessels up to inspection standards. In terms of modernization for the Navy cargo ships; we pave the way for things like a refresh for the living areas of the ships. We did that recently for a ship from Hawaii. We also support things like new radios, radar systems and engine controls.”

Last September, BAE Systems announced that it’s collaborating with technology companies to develop software that will monitor equipment, fuel and performance in real time for commercial and military vessels. The software, Ship Energy Assessment – Condition Optimization & Routing Enhancement System (SEA-CORES), is being tested on a tanker in Northern Europe for the remainder of the year. To develop the technology, BAE Systems partnered with the University of Southampton; the project is sponsored by Innovate UK.

“This technology will provide the Royal Navy with valuable information that will enable it to make better decisions about how it operates the fleet,” said Chris Courtaux, head of engineering and energy services at BAE Systems, in a company press release. “For instance, reducing speed may save fuel, but could increase the wear to the engine if it sails below its optimum speed. Providing real time data about the impact of such decisions can help the operator to reduce fuel consumption and minimize wear on the engine, helping to save costs and increase the availability of the fleet to fulfill operational commitments around the world. The same technology is valuable for commercial companies looking for opportunities to boost the competitiveness of their operations.”

In 2015, the Port of San Francisco signed a 20 year lease with BAE Systems to continue shipbuilding services at Pier 70, in advance of the prior lease expiring in 2017.  The new lease includes an option to extend operations through 2045. The company employs an average of 250 workers at Pier 70.