CAPT. JOSEPH TUITE speaks at a Change of Command ceremony on May 26, where he officially took command of SUPSHIP Bath.

CAPT. JOSEPH TUITE speaks at a Change of Command ceremony on May 26, where he officially took command of SUPSHIP Bath.


Across the street from the imposing, non-descript grayish wall that seals off most of Bath Iron Works from prying eyes is a fenced off campus with brick buildings, where several signs warn would-be trespassers that it is a restricted area.

While there are no gaudy signs announcing their presence, this is the headquarters of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Bath, or SUPSHIP Bath, one of four SUPSHIP entities that oversees shipbuilding and maintenance contracts for the Navy at private shipyards across the country — including BIW.

“At SUPSHIP, our main function is to oversee the shipbuilding contracts,” said Capt. Joseph Tuite, the commanding officer of SUPSHIP Bath. “The contracts get awarded in Washington, D.C. and they’re sent to us to be executed. So we provide the oversight, we provide the contracting.”

Tuite took command of SUPSHIP Bath at a Change of Command ceremony last month, replacing Capt. Michael Taylor, who had served in that position since September 2014. Tuite comes from SUPSHIP Gulf Coast, where he had been the executive officer since 2014 and has overseen the delivery of 14 ships to the U.S. Navy and its allies.

Tuite moved to Brunswick a month ago, where he lives with his wife and three children.

“We’re really enjoying Maine,” he said. “Happy to be here.”

At SUPSHIP Bath, Tuite is responsible for executing contracts for five classes of ships, two of which — the Arleigh Burke-class and Zumwalt-class destroyers — are built at BIW.

“There’s some challenges for me personally — there’s some new ship classes that I need to get familiar with, but obviously the people who work for me are the professionals who will keep doing their job,” said Tuite. “I’m drinking through a fire hose getting up to speed on all the things I need to know for those ship classes.”

While SUPSHIP Bath is located directly across from BIW, it works with shipyards all over the country, from Florida to California.

“So at SUPSHIP Bath we have about 350 employees total — about 250 are here at Bath where the headquarters is,” explained Tuite. “We also have people in Marinette, Wisconsin, and we also have people in San Diego, California. As shipbuilding programs come and go, we sometimes stand up offices and obviously stand some down. We had people working in Anacortes, Washington, for a couple years and we still have a couple people in Brownsville, Texas, actually, overseeing aircraft carriers being recycled.”

Although a relatively small organization, the SUPSHIPs play an important role in administering the construction, maintenance and modernization of the Navy’s fleet. After Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awards a contract to a private shipbuilder, one of the four SUPSHIPs is assigned to ensure that the contract is properly executed.

“Keep it to cost, keep it to schedule, keep it to quality, all those things need to get balanced together to make sure we get the end product that the Navy wants,” said Tuite.

SUPSHIP Bath splits the oversight of the construction/maintenance of nonnuclear Navy vessels with SUPSHIP Gulf Coast — the other two SUPSHIPs focus solely on nuclear vessels. Because of the number of shipyards the Navy contracts with along the Gulf Coast — and their relative proximity — SUPSHIP Gulf Coast is assigned solely to them, while SUPSHIP Bath takes the rest.

SUPSHIP Bath has been located in Bath since 1931 and has overseen the construction of several classes of ships and their eventual delivery to the Navy. BIW is the prime contract recipient of the four private shipyards associated with SUPSHIP Bath, and Tuite said that SUPSHIP Bath representatives are at the shipyard every day, checking quality and monitoring testing.

“We have quality assurance inspectors who go on what we call government call outs. There’s numerous spots in the shipbuilding process after BIW, for example, completes a certain task. They call us, we go ‘yup, it was built the way it was supposed to be built,’” said Tuite. “Or there’s tests that we monitor, when we test the engines there’s numerous testing to be done on a ship’s engines. We watch the testing while it happens to make sure it’s operating properly.

“If issues come up, we have engineers who can work out with the company’s engineers what a solution is,” he added.

Ultimately, it is SUPSHIP Bath’s responsibility to ensure that private shipyards like BIW deliver high quality products to the Navy and taxpayer money is well spent, said Tuite.

“At the end of the day, the ship needs to be at a certain level — it has to do what our sailors who serve on it need it to do, and we’re here to make sure that happens.”

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