KITTERY — U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine on Friday heaped praise on workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard during what could be her last visit as a sitting senator.

Snowe told shipyard workers that she’ll never forget what they have done for the nation’s defense and called them “simply the best.”

Snowe also expressed confidence that the fire-damaged USS Miami will be restored by shipyard workers to “better than new.”

Over the years, Snowe has been a strong advocate for the shipyard, which overhauls submarines and has survived several rounds of base closings.

“What a supreme and singular honor it has been to fight for you, to stand by you, to be your voice and your advocate and your champion in the United States Senate. Because no one does it better and no one deserves better than all of you, the finest naval shipyard workers on the planet,” Snowe told the workers.

Paul O’Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council, said workers had an opportunity to return the gratitude and appreciation to the senator before she leaves office.

“We did some reminiscing of the fighting for us and with us, shoulder to shoulder, to turn the base closure around. We have so much history with her and her with us. It’s like saying goodbye to a family member. Even though we’ll see her again, it won’t be as a U.S. senator,” he said afterward.

The union leader said workers appreciated the way she defended the shipyard with “ferocity” and showed a willingness to reach across the aisle to work with others.

“We love her, and she loves us,” O’Connor said. “I can’t recall ever saying that publicly about a U.S. senator, but truly she’s such a wonderful person.”

Last month, Snowe spoke at a shipyard union’s annual Lobsterfest.

On Friday, she was back for the kickoff of a campaign by federal workers to raise money for charities.

Her office said there are no current plans to return to the shipyard before her term ends, but it’s still possible that she could be back in Kittery.

Snowe shocked the political establishment in February in announcing that she wouldn’t seek re-election after serving 33 years in Congress.